Guests: Jan Schakowksy, Richard Wolffe, Sherrod Brown, Ezra Klein, Clarissa Martinez De Castro, Luis Gutierrez, Tyson Slocum
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur, live from Los Angeles. We have got an awesome show for you tonight.
Tonight, we start with the Republican Party and their struggle to find out who their real boss is. Is it Wall Street or is it the Tea Party? Well, I‘ve got an answer four. You‘re going to see it in a second. But let‘s talk about their dilemma.
House Speaker John Boehner is twisting had himself into knots trying to serve both masters, as we saw again last night in his speech that defined his position on our debt. Now, he was speaking to a Wall Street crowd who don‘t want him to play with the debt ceiling at all, but he also has to appeal to the Tea Party, who want massive cuts. So that‘s bit of a problem.
So, what did he do? He said Republicans will only vote to raise the debt ceiling if they get their way on huge cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: The cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in the debt limit that the president has given. We are not talking about billions here, we should be talking about cuts in trillions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: He also gave a big shout-out to the Tea Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: And I think Washington‘s arrogance has triggered a rebellion in our country. And, yes, I don‘t think “rebellion” is too strong of a word. The revolt that we have seen around our country by ordinary citizens over the past few years is nothing that we have ever seen in our lifetime.
UYGUR: So you see that he is using a lot of Tea Party rhetoric, and he was also pretty chummy with David Koch, the conservative billionaire who has financed the Tea Party movement to serve his own corporate interests. There they are, having a great time. Will you look at that?
But there was one thing that the bankers and the Tea Partiers could all agree on, that tax hikes are off the table. And, of course, the poor and the middle class should bear the brunt of the cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: The fact is you can‘t tax the very people that we expect to invest in our economy and create jobs. Washington doesn‘t have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem.
MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Well, as you sit here today, raising taxes, that‘s a nonstarter.
BOEHNER: It is off the table.
LAUER: Off the table.
BOEHNER: Everything else is on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: How many times do we have to go through this? This trickle-down nonsense has never happened, never worked.
But today, something interesting did happen. Democrats started to call Boehner‘s bluff.
They said if you want to cut spending, let‘s start by cutting massive oil subsidies.
Now, Republicans will, of course, try to squirm their way out of that one by arguing that the one place we shouldn‘t cut is government subsidies for the most profitable companies in the world. Good luck with that one. See how it turns out for you.
Well, let‘s broaden the conversation a little bit. Let‘s bring in Representative Jan Schakowsky. She‘s a Democrat from Illinois and a member of the Progressive Caucus. She also serves on the president‘s debt commission, but voted against it because the recommendations were too deep in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts.
Also with us is MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe.
Great to have you both here.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWKSY (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
Representative Schakowsky, let me start with you.
I‘m going to show you a graphic that it is going to I think settle the question of, who do Republicans actually work for? This is the contributions that the Republican Party got in just 2010 from the financial industry—over $58 million. That is stunning!
Come on. They are just kidding around with the Tea Party, right?
Their real boss is Wall Street.
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, their real boss is Wall Street. And when Wall Street weighs in on whether or not they are going to actually demand a $2 trillion or whatever plus cut, and to hold hostage the increase in the debt ceiling, there is going to be a rebellion from their very base, from their supporters.
But, you know, John Boehner hasn‘t seen anything of the rebellion that will also occur from people. He has got an little taste of it when they go to cut Medicare and they go to cut Medicaid and other entitlement programs. The American people are absolutely against this.
UYGUR: All right.
Richard, though, he really does have a problem here, right? Because when you look at the Tea Party, now, let me show you a poll to give you the depth of the problem.
When asked, is it time for a third party? Tea Party supporter, 60 percent of them, said yes. Fifty-two percent of Republicans said yes. So, you know, if they just keep giving into the Wall Street guys and keep—you know, the spending, whether it is through tax loopholes or whether it‘s through revenue or government contracts, et cetera, they are going to have a real voter problem on their hands, aren‘t they?
WOLFFE: Yes, they do, and it‘s a problem for the whole establishment of the Republican Party as they think about who is electable. Remember, the Tea Party candidates in the Senate races, those Senate-wide races, failed really badly. They lost in places they should have won because they went with unelectable people that the Tea Party wanted, and that‘s how you end up with a third-party candidate. And I have said for many years now, this is the environment that would lead you down that track.
The problem Boehner has with Wall Street isn‘t just about the Tea Party though. He is making a contradictory argument.
He is saying that you have to deal with long-term debt and deficit to reassure the markets, and the way we are going to reassure the markets is to spook them by playing around with the debt limit. You cannot both spook the markets and reassure them at the same time. That New York audience surely understood there were more contradictions in there than just the Tea Party. This economic argument they‘re making does not make sense as it‘s framed right now.
UYGUR: All right.
So, Representative Schakowsky, I know that there are other ways to balance the budget other than just simply doing it off the backs of the middle class and the poor. For example, your Progressive Caucus budget—in fact, your budget specifically that you proposed, has a different solution.
What is that?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, first of all, let me just say that the president, the Democratic Caucus and the Progressive Caucus are ready to reduce the deficit. We‘re just not going to do it on the backs of the middle class, which is already disappearing, and certainly not on low-income people.
What the Progressive Caucus does is 50 percent in cuts and 50 percent in increases in revenue. And, you know, I think the American people have spoken.
Eighty-one percent say that the best way to reduce the debt is to go -
is to further tax millionaires and billionaires. They know what‘s going on.
Those people have paid the lowest tax rates in the last 50-plus years. And now the Republicans, in their budget, actually want to give about another $2 trillion -- $1.8 trillion—in additional tax cuts to those people while maintaining gas and oil subsidies.
These are not things that are popular, I don‘t believe, even with the Tea Party. They don‘t want to see those kinds of cuts that are going to hurt ordinary Americans, and they don‘t think it‘s fair that the oil companies are getting these big subsidies.
UYGUR: So, Richard, explain that to me, because, look, Representative Schakowsky is right. We have shown the polls and over and over again.
When you ask the American people, should we raise taxes on people making over $250,000, overwhelmingly yes. Over a $1 million, tremendously yes. And should we take away the oil subsidies? Absolutely.
The numbers are overwhelming in each of those scenarios. So they have
the Progressive Caucus has a balanced way of actually cutting the deficit through cutting revenue and cutting—I‘m sorry, increasing taxes that the American people are in favor of. So why doesn‘t it even get considered? It seems like it‘s not even part of the conversation in Washington.
WOLFFE: Well, I think it is part of the conversation, which is exactly what‘s going to happen through 2012 when it comes down to the Bush tax cuts. I mean, a lot of this is going to be a really strange position for Democrats going into an election year, saying that for significant numbers of people, their taxes are going to go up. Democrats are not used to finding themselves in the popular position of saying taxes are going to go up for some people.
Now, when you look at the bigger—the spread, if you say taxes are going up on everyone, there‘s no support for that. But a targeted tax raise is popular in terms of what the polls have shown very consistently here.
If you just put it up to millionaires and beyond, you are not really going to deal with the deficit. And by the way, when Boehner says we‘re going to deal with trillions and not billions, well, I don‘t hear anything from anyone, White House, Democrats, Republicans. Everyone is talking about trillions.
If you spread this out over enough years, you end up with trillions, and that‘s what they are all talking about. It‘s not trillion this year, it‘s the trillions over 10 years. So there‘s funny money going on here as well.
UYGUR: Look, I‘m more of a conservative on fiscal discipline than
maybe anybody in the country. But Representative Schakowsky, I think there
is an easy way to do this
You know, Richard is right. You‘re talking about trillions, but Boehner always says inaction would be the most terrible thing and it would be unacceptable. Actually, that‘s not true.
If we don‘t take any action, we go back to the Clinton tax rates. And you know how much that would raise in the next 10 years alone? Four trillion dollars.
UYGUR: So why don‘t we just do that?
SCHAKOWSKY: Exactly. Well, the president has talked about it, certainly for those who make $250,000 and over.
I introduced legislation that would create new tax brackets starting at $1 million and ratcheting up to $1 billion. And actually, there is a lot of money, about over $800 billion over 10 years, if we just taxed at a fair rate, a tax lower than during the Reagan administration, people who make $1 million, up to $1 billion.
That‘s where the money is. That‘s what Willie Sutton said when asked why does he rob banks? Because that‘s where the money is. And John Boehner doesn‘t want to go there.
He wants to further burden old people and frail people and middle class people by getting rid of Medicare and Medicaid and even going after Social Security. No. That is not where American people want to go.
UYGUR: Well, you know, Representative Schakowsky, they know exactly where the money is. That‘s the money they are trying to protect. They want to hold on to it for their donors.
Richard, last thing for you, because, look, I want to play this video because it gives you a great sense of the problem that John Boehner has. This is a Tea Party supporter talking about going after Boehner. Let‘s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TEMPLE, TEA PARTY FOUNDING FATHERS: Instead of a fighter for U.S. taxpayers, Mr. Boehner has been a surrenderist. It‘s a cowardly act of treason against coming generations, and we may be able to give Boehner something really to cry about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, look, I love the goofy outfit, but Richard, tell me here what—you know, to the point of this whole discussion, what is Boehner going to do at the end? Is he going to go with the guys in the funny outfits, or is he going to go with all the guys with all the money on Wall Street?
Is he going to blink here? Is he bluffing? What‘s the final result of this?
WOLFFE: Well, he is going to try for as long as he can to do both, at least through the primaries. Remember, the challenge here is that those Tea Party folks take on his base, his members, at the primary stage, and that‘s where the challenge is.
Third-party candidates aren‘t really going to challenge all these House members. There may be some impact they can have on the presidential race, but there is a strong anti-corporate feeling from those Tea Party folks.
Remember those signs they held up? They were against the bank bailouts. The oil bailouts don‘t make any sense to those folks either.
So they can move this to a philosophical edge of how big should government be. But in the end, at this point, for the next year or so, he has really got to pander to the Tea Party folks first and say privately to the Wall Street guys, don‘t worry, we‘ll look after you.
UYGUR: Right. But when it comes to the debt ceiling, they are not going to touch that.
WOLFFE: They‘re going to blink.
UYGUR: Money always speaks in the Republican Party. That‘s my opinion.
Representative Jan Schakowsky, Richard Wolffe—
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you.
UYGUR: -- you guys have been great. Thank you so much for joining us.
WOLFFE: You bet.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, when we come back, from hero to zero. Senate Republicans are running away from Paul Ryan‘s plan to kill Medicare. But don‘t worry. They are still finding a way to attack the middle class. We‘ll show you how they are doing that.
And Senator Sherrod Brown is going to join us live to talk about that.
Republicans are also blaming the president for high gas prices, but 90 percent of Americans believe it someone else‘s fault. We‘ll tell you who that is and what Republicans don‘t want you to hear.
UYGUR: The Republicans are retreating and attacking at the same time today. The attacks we‘re used to. The retreat, we‘re not. So what is that about?
Well, it‘s about that Medicare plan. Man, they are running for the hills. They are so far up that hill, they are out of breath. They‘re like, Jesus, Lord, mercy (INAUDIBLE).
Democrats got them on the run on this one. “The Hill” reports that Senate Republicans are dropping Ryan‘s Medicare voucher plan entirely. It‘s not included in their new budget unveiled today by Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.
Wow. Run, run, run, run. Stay, stay, stay, stay.
They did not have that worked out for them, and they are saying, you know what? The time to attack something new. And they‘ve always got to go on the attack, right?
So, what‘s new? Medicaid.
Toomey‘s plan follows the Ryan model of turning Medicaid into a Block Grant program. Now, you know how much that cut? The Ryan plan cuts at least $1.3 trillion from Medicaid. And a new report out today says that plan would add 44 million poor people to the ranks of the uninsured.
Way to stay classy, guys. Of course, Washington will call this serious and grown up. Yes, of course. When you attack people in lower-income brackets, that is very serious and grown up.
Going after rich people? Oh, no, no, no. We would never want to do that.
At least they learned their lesson on Medicare. Will they learn their lesson on Medicaid? We‘ll find out.
Well, one of the guys they have to deal with is Democratic Senator from Ohio Sherrod Brown. And he‘s joining us right now.
Senator Brown, great to have you here.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Cenk, how are you? Good to be with you. Thanks.
UYGUR: All right.
So, first, on Medicare, is it done? Is it, as spike would say, ovah?
BROWN: No, I don‘t think they‘ve—I mean, you said they‘ve learned their lesson. I‘m not sure they have.
Every time they get a chance, from the invention of Medicare in the mid ‘60s, the passage where most Republican opposed it, to the first time Newt Gingrich had a Republican House and Republican Senate, they tried to privatize, fell short. The first time President Bush, there was a Republican president, two Republican houses, House and Senate, President Bush tried to privatize Social Security. Now that the Republicans at least think they are on the ascendancy in Washington, they are trying again.
They are going to keep trying because they don‘t—fundamentally, they don‘t believe in a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, for that matter, can work for the public. And they found out when they went home, and particularly the freshmen Republicans went home, and they unveiled to the sound of trumpets and ticker tape, or however they did it, this grand Medicare scheme under Paul Ryan‘s bill, they found out it wasn‘t so popular, because the voters believe in Medicare, they know it works.
They don‘t want some risky government—anti-government voucher scheme that is basically just going to shift costs to seniors. It doesn‘t save dollars like we‘re trying to do with Medicare as a whole to make it more efficient. It just shifts the cost from the program, from taxpayers, on to seniors, and that just doesn‘t work for people.
UYGUR: Well, it doesn‘t, and that‘s probably why they didn‘t include it in their new Senate proposal today. And here is a letter from 41 GOP House freshmen—and I love this.
This to President Obama, and they are complaining about “Mediscare attacks against Republicans. We ask that you stand above partisanship, condemn the disingenuous attacks and work with this Congress.”
Look, I‘m going to be a little harsh, but it sounds like they are crying. They‘re like, oh, no, Mr. President, please have your party stop attacking our terrible ideas.
BROWN: Yes, exactly.
UYGUR: Any chance you guys will listen?
BROWN: No. It‘s funny they do that. I mean, it‘s not funny, but it‘s curious they do that, because a lot of them, last year, went after Democratic House incumbents saying that Democrats were cutting Medicare. What we were doing is taking away insurance company subsidies that the insurance companies got when they were involved in the Medicare privatization program begun by—well, begun 10 or so years -- 10 or 11 or 12 years ago.
So the fact is, these guys, of course they are complaining about it, because they know we are being straightforward and we are attacking them for what they want to do to Medicare. But it‘s like when they accuse Democrats of class warfare. They are the ones doing the class warfare, we are just pointing it out.
They‘re the ones that are trying to scare seniors and take away what we know works, a very good Medicare program that‘s been around for 45 or 46 years now. And we are just pointing out that they are trying to undercut it and privatize it and shift cost to seniors.
We‘re going to keep pointing that out. They‘re going to keep trying it because it‘s what they believe.
They don‘t believe in this government health program any more than they believe in the health bill we passed a year and a half ago. They don‘t like Medicare. They don‘t like to say it that way, but they really fundamentally don‘t like that program.
UYGUR: Well, there is one other issue here, of course, as we pointed out, and that‘s Medicaid. I want to show you an NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll. Medicaid also polls well.
First of all, the most popular thing is raising taxes on millionaires for how to balance the budget. That‘s 81 percent saying they are in favor of that. Don‘t cut Medicare is at 76.
But don‘t cut Medicaid is also at 67 percent. That‘s two-thirds of the country.
So will the Democrats have as much passion and fight in defending Medicaid as they did on Medicare?
BROWN: Yes. We went through that a decade and a half ago, too, in the ‘90s, when Gingrich tried to Block Grant Medicaid. It‘s a nonstarter.
It hurts two groups of people. It hurts poor kids. They are—about two-thirds of Medicaid beneficiaries are children. They are only one-third of the cost, because kids don‘t get sick as much.
The other part of Medicaid is seniors, many of them in nursing homes, low-income, moderate-income seniors who don‘t have a lot of assets. That‘s about a third of the individuals in Medicaid but two-thirds of the costs because they are obviously—it costs more to take care of a senior than a child.
So they are going after young—they‘re going after poor children and low-income, moderate-income, low-asset, if you will, seniors. And that ain‘t going to work either because the public gets it.
The public is on to these guys, how they overreach. They overreached in Ohio in what they are doing in collective bargaining.
I mean, I have asked people to go on my Web site, SherrodBrown.com/Ohio, and sign up about—against what they are trying to do when they overreached in Ohio in taking away bargaining rights and going after women‘s rights. It‘s the same thing they are doing nationally, and it has got to stop.
Senator Sherrod Brown, taking the fight to them today.
BROWN: Thanks. All right.
UYGUR: I appreciate you being here.
BROWN: Good to be with you.
UYGUR: All right.
Now let‘s bring in Ezra Klein. He‘s an MSNBC contributor and a reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Ezra, let‘s concentrate on that Medicaid attack that‘s coming now—
$1.3 trillion, cutting 44 million people off of Medicaid. That is Draconian.
Are you as convinced as Senator Brown that the Democrats are going to fight just as hard on that one, or maybe not?
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I am convinced that many Democrats will fight quite hard on Medicaid. Medicaid is very close to the heart of Democrats. It is a great society program. It protects truly the most vulnerable people in America.
One group that Senator Brown didn‘t bring up were disabled. The bulk of Medicaid‘s costs come from the disabled, the people who really can‘t take care of themselves, and people who really can‘t go out and purchase their own health care insurance. So I think, emotionally, Democrats will be there. The problem for Medicaid is its constituents aren‘t as powerful.
UYGUR: Exactly. That‘s exactly it.
KLEIN: More able-bodied, more able-minded seniors are stronger.
UYGUR: That‘s what I‘m worried about.
KLEIN: And so, even if Democrats are emotionally there to fight for Medicaid, they are not going to have quite the same interest group backup that Medicare does. And that could lead to an outcome where they beat back most of the attacks on Medicaid, but it still does get whacked in a way Medicare simply doesn‘t.
UYGUR: You know, I think it will, and I‘ll tell you why. And I don‘t want to be pessimistic, and I hope they fight back and I hope they win. Right?
But they‘ve got to do the spending cuts, and the Republicans are coming, and unfortunately we‘re on Republican ground because we‘re talking about that debt commission which was so conservative, which the president has lauded over and over, for reasons that I cannot comprehend. But Medicare affects us all. Right? Social Security affects us all.
So, that‘s easy to protect because it‘s got a large constituency, as you said. Medicaid only helps the poor, the disabled, et cetera.
Well, you know, those guys are going to be easier to hit politically.
KLEIN: They are easier to hit. I don‘t think anybody—I don‘t think Democrats particularly want to hit them.
And one thing that will help Medicaid, one factor in this that isn‘t well understood, the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats really do care about protecting and which this administration really cares about protecting—they really do see it as their entire legacy—the Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid tremendously. About half of the 32 million people who are going to be covered are going to be covered through Medicaid.
So a sharp cut in Medicaid is essentially a direct attack on the Affordable Care Act. And a lot of Democrats are going to find that one to be a nonstarter, too. They‘ve been very united in repelling Republican attempts to repeal the bill, and they‘re not going to be much more impressed with Republican attempts to cut out the heart of the bill‘s coverage provisions --
UYGUR: Well, look—you know, Ezra—
KLEIN: -- and then take 44 million people beyond that out of health care coverage.
UYGUR: Ezra, I hope to God you‘re right. But look, the president, when he made his speech a couple of weeks ago, and talked about how we‘re going to take three times as much from spending cults as we are from tax increases, well, you‘ve got to cut somewhere. And so that‘s what I‘m scared about.
But now, look, if they don‘t do this, they do something called a CAP Act. Real quickly, can you explain to people what that is and why that might be even worse?
KLEIN: Are you talking the McCaskill//Corker CAP Act?
KLEIN: So, the McCaskill/Corker CAP Act, what it does is it holds spending down to 20.6 percent of GDP. And currently, spending is around 23, 24 percent of GDP. And because we‘re going to have a big retirement boom in the coming years—the baby boomers are leaving work—we‘re going to have somewhat more spending, because they are going to need Medicare, they‘re going to need Social Security. We‘ll have fewer working-age adults.
Essentially, what the CAP Act does is it institutes something like—it forces something like the Ryan plan through the back door by saying that there is only one way to handle our problems. And that is sharply, sharply, sharply cutting spending and the federal programs.
You only allow one way to get out of this, which is a much smaller, much more restrained, much less efficient government. And you do it at the exact moment that you have a really large number of seniors retiring and a very significant unemployment problem, such that you‘re going to have a state that is completely incapable of dealing with the very problems that are facing it.
KLEIN: For Democrats to be on this act is a shocking thing. And I have just been baffled by the fact that McCaskill and Manchin and Lieberman and a bunch of others are there. Any Democrat who believes that Medicare and Social Security and the military should exist really can‘t in good conscience support the CAP Act, because the numbers for those programs and that act simply don‘t add up.
UYGUR: Ezra, I couldn‘t agree more with you, but I‘m not—except for the part where you are shocked that Lieberman and Manchin are on board. Well, of course they are. I mean, Lieberman, Democrat? Manchin?
OK. Look, some of the top economists in the world, 75 of them, got together and said what the CAP Act is—here, I‘ll just read it to you real quick. It says, “Such caps would require cutting or eliminating programs that are vital to the middle class like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. To put it bluntly, these plans would amount to nothing less than a Medicare kill switch.”
So this looks like a backdoor way of cutting all these programs without saying you are cutting it.
So, all right, the last thing on this. I know some Democrats have signed on. That makes it even scarier.
Do they realize this at the end and go, wait a minute, we‘re not going to do this, or do they actually go in favor of this, what appears to be a terrible plan?
KLEIN: I think so. And I think the Obama administration really has their hair on fire about this.
They are getting really serious pushback on the Hill from the Obama administration. And also, I mean, center-left groups, groups that tend to be thought of as centrists, like Third Way, are coming out and saying this is going to be like another Smoot-Hawley, which is the tariff act that was considered to be a contributor of the Great Depression. So there‘s going to be very, very broad agreement in the party against this act.
UYGUR: All right. Ezra Klein, thank you so much. A great discussion tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, when we come back, Republicans who claim to love transparency, now they say that they‘re against it. Of course! The GOP‘s efforts to protect their rich donors is our “Con Job of the Day,” next.
UYGUR: Now, for our con job of the day, we go to republican hypocrisy on full disclosure of campaign cash. There‘s a new republic points out, over the years, the GOP has claim that it favored letting the public know where political donations came from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think what we ought to do is we ought to have full disclosure, full disclosure of all of the money that we raise and how it is spent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Fantastic, I totally agree. And Boehner wasn‘t the only one. Last year, Representative Eric Cantor said, quote, “anything that moves us back towards that notion of transparency and real-time reporting of donations and contributions I think would be a helpful move.” Great! Mitch McConnell even said, quote, “why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?” Well, lovely, we‘ve got a deal then, don‘t we?
Let‘s definitely find out where the political money is coming from. What? All of a sudden no deal? I didn‘t see that coming. Of course, now that Citizens United decision has opened the flood gates for corporate money, the GOP is changing its tune. Stay with me. Of course! Republicans led by Mitch McConnell are blasting an Obama plan to require more disclosure from companies seeking government contracts. They say would have a quote, “chilling effect on political participation.” That‘s where they get to buy the politicians, right? That‘s the kind of participation they are talking about. McConnell even called disclosure quote, “a cynical effort to muzzle critics of this administration and its allies in Congress.”
So, Republicans supported transparency until they realized it might reveal how big political donors are rewarded with government cash. That‘s when they realized transparency might not be in their best interest after all and that awesome bit of republican flip-flopping is our con job of the day.
Next, President Obama is in Texas today. He wants a call to action on immigration reform, but is it all just politics? Congressman Gutierrez hopes not. He wants action now and wants to hold the administration accountable. That‘s coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I suspect there‘s still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. You know, they said we needed to triple the border patrol. Well now they are going to say we need to quadruple the border patrol or they will want a higher fence. Maybe they will need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, that was President Obama today in Texas calling on Congress to go ahead with immigration reform. That‘s great, but does he mean it? Now, look, the Democrats did try for the Dream Act at the end of last year and, of course, the Republicans knocked it down. But other than that immigration reform was not a high priority when the Democrats were in complete control. That‘s the reality of the situation. But look, the president needs those Latino votes really badly for reasons we are about to show you. So, that‘s why he is reaching out to them in speeches like this. So, let me show you the numbers. This is why they are so important in elections now. From 2000 through 2010, the number of minorities increased in every single state. Hispanics are driving the growth.
In 2000, Latinos accounted for one in eight Americans or 35.3 million people. Latinos now make up one in six Americans, or nearly 50.5 million people in all. In Texas alone, the Latino population is up 43 percent in the last decade and if Obama can hold onto the same number of minority votes that he won in 2008, he can take Georgia with just 25 percent of the white vote. That is an amazing number. He can do the same in Nevada with just 35 percent of the white vote and in Florida with just under 40 percent. This is why President Obama needs to appeal to this base, but should Latino voters go along? Look, that‘s much tougher question, because they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Voting republican usually ends up in disaster for them and Texas is the perfect example, where the president was today. Republicans in the Texas state house passed a bill late last night that would allow police to question anyone they detained about their immigration status. You know what that means, that means racial profiling of all Latinos. And that‘s why people who don‘t want to vote republican. On the other hand, you didn‘t get much action from the Democrats. How do you resolve that? Well, let‘s talk about it.
Joining me now is the Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, he‘s—oh, I‘m sorry, and also with us, Clarissa Martinez De Castro, she‘s the director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the National Council of La Raza.
All right. Great to have you both here.
CLARISSA MARTINEZ DE CASTRO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA:
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you.
UYGUR: Congressman, let me start with you. Well, the White House put out a statement today which makes me concerned. Let me read it to you. They say, about President Obama, “He‘s going to make the case that legislation is the root of reform, he wants to pass legislation as soon as possible but he‘s not going to lay out any timelines.” That was actually a senior administration official to “Huffington Post” saying that. When you say you are not going to lay out any timelines, doesn‘t that realistically mean we are not really going to get legislation?
GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. I think you can be see very clearly today the reception he received from the republican governor of Texas was, I‘m not showing up because I‘m mad about something else. But I‘m not going to be there, Mr. President. I mean, the governor of Arizona woke up this morning and said, it‘s nice that he comes down to El Paso, but guess what, secure the border first, we don‘t want to Hear about anything else. And even if you listen to the president‘s speech, when he talks about his partnership, bipartisan partnership, there wasn‘t one leader, one leader of the Republican Party mentioned. You know why? Because they are not going to help and cooperate.
As you suggested earlier, we passed the Dream Act in the house with eight Republicans and we were stymied in the Senate in passing the Dream Act because even the republican senators that were co-sponsors of the bill in the end voted against the bill and to end cloture. So, I mean, submit it to cloture. So, look, here is what we are saying to the president of the United States. We had a wonderful meeting with him last Tuesday. He didn‘t tell us that he couldn‘t govern by decree. That‘s not what we‘re suggesting. What we‘re suggesting is that the president of the United States has broad discretionary powers. And that there‘s 65,000 kids, going to graduate from high schools all across America, some of them the class valedictorian, they‘ve been admitted to Harvard, they are bright, they came here as young kids, he doesn‘t want to deport them, he shouldn‘t deport them.
There are young kids this morning, I bet you today, I put money that today, somewhere in America, there were young American citizen children who were ripped from the arms of their mothers, undocumented. There‘s a soldier being sent to Afghanistan and his wife‘s under order of deportation. There are serious problems with our immigration system and I think the president should look and to use that fairness and that justice and that balance. You know, we want him to be a democrat and say, yes, the Republicans are going to stymie every event, every opportunity we give them to come and share at the table and to pass meaningful legislation. But while they do it, we are not going to continue to cause havoc and harm on so many deserving families.
UYGUR: But clear this up, what do you do with this problem? Because yes, the Republicans are a disaster and they killed the Dream Act and they passed laws like in Arizona and Texas, and you see all over the place. On the other hand, the Democrats didn‘t deliver. So, how do you put pressure on the Democrats to deliver when your other option seems like it is no option at all?
CASTRO: Well, I mean, I think that you use a good decision when you said that Latino voters are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the other hand, I think that Democrats have an imperative to demonstrate that they can deliver on promises made and hopefully that will bring added pressure on Congress. At the same time, Republicans have to start rebuilding their relationship with the Latino community if they have any aspirations of getting to the White House. So, we welcome the president‘s speech and finally using his bully pulpit to try to create the space for a reform. We know that‘s going to take a while.
So, as we are asking Congress to be responsible, the administration also needs to be responsible and they do have administrative powers to ensure that the application of these policies, because what we are experiencing as a systemic failure in our immigration policy that they try to mitigate the damage that‘s being done. And so you‘re absolutely right, too much politics has been played with this issue, too little, too light on the illusions. And if this is just about politics, voters, Latinos and non-Latinos alike are going to see right through it.
UYGUR: Congressman, we‘ve got a poll from Gallup now showing that in January 2009, the president had 74 percent approval rating involving Latinos. That is now down to 54 percent, he lost 20 points there. I take it is because of the inaction. So, now when the president gives speeches about, oh, I will do it the next time around, is it good enough?
GUTIERREZ: Look. Clarissa is absolutely right. The president has broad discretionary powers. Now, when we elected him, and I say those of us that championed his cause, we elected him to be our champion, right? And to be the kind of caring, compassionate, how I would say it, careful in the administration of the law and balanced. And to bring a sense of justice to his administration of the law. Look, it‘s just wrong, there are too many American Citizens being impacted. There are too many meaningful people being impacted by our broken immigration system. They are not criminals. They are not gangbangers and drug dealers. They are not—you know, they are people who are working hard and their integration into the fabric of our society is so—how I would say—so enmeshed into the fabric of our society.
We need the president to ameliorate the situation to give some relief.
Because otherwise, here‘s what Latinos are going to say, for two years, Mr. President, you had—you had ten then eight then nine majority in the Senate. We didn‘t hear this clarion call. In the house, we waited until the lame duck session to propose the Dream Act. We have 40 votes, they don‘t exist. And I, for one, I want to make this absolute, I am not going to participate in a situation, in a political situation in which we tell Latinos and immigrants, this is the cause of justice and here‘s where we are going to get relief, it is not going to come from the legislative part. The Republicans are not going to be our partners. I had a partner, his name was John McCain. That partner left the table. The Republicans have left the table. They want to continue to cause damage and to continue to exploit this issue for political gain. And I think our president has to say, enough politics, I have power, I‘m going to bring some justice and some common sense to the policy.
UYGUR: Clarissa, last question to you. Of course, Congressman Gutierrez is right. Today, Eric Cantor came out and said, how dare the president talk about immigration, that‘s how much disdain they have for the issue overall, but what can Latinos do with their power? Is it to threaten votes? Because if you threaten votes, then Republicans win, you are in worse shape, or is it to threaten funding, is it to threaten participation in getting out the vote? I mean, do we have to talk about real politic like that or you just say, all right, let‘s hope for the best?
CASTRO: Well, you know, what we saw in 2010, particularly in places like Arizona is that the Latino community decided to take a stand in support and against the demonization of Latinos and immigrants across the country. Let‘s not forget that if people feel that certain candidates in the ticket are not meeting their requirements and their standards, there‘s other candidates to vote for. So, we need to continue increasing our electoral power, so that people can act according to those interests. But the last thing here, which is really important, as I said, yes, this issue is of dire importance for Latinos, but let‘s not forget that the vast majority of the American public supports the same solution Latino support. So, this is good for Latinos but it‘s also good for the country.
UYGUR: All right. Representative Luis Gutierrez and Clarissa Martinez De Castro, you guys are great. Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it.
GUTIERREZ: Thanks for having me.
CASTRO: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Now, next, we‘ve got republican leaders blaming President Obama for high gas prices. Of course they are. But it turns out they can‘t fool the American people. We will show you who Americans blame instead.
UYGUR: Disgraced former Senator John Ensign is out. But his replacement‘s voting record makes him look tame. We will introduce you to the newest wacky right-wing Senator Dean Heller. That‘s coming up, ahead.
UYGUR: Last week, Nevada Senator John Ensign following an extra marital affair he had with a former aide. This week, his replacement was sworn in. So, I thought I would introduce you to your newest United States senator, former Congressman Dean Heller. It is not that surprising that Heller is basically a clone of John Ensign, minus their fair, but plus some extra right-wing positions. As think progress points out, Heller‘s record is not only conservative it involves a couple of wacky and cringe-worthy moments. Heller recently said he was quote, “proud to be the only member of Congress who will get to vote against Medicaid twice.” Good for you, big guy.
Way to hit the pour. Very, very brave. He voted to end birth right citizenship. Way to be un-American. He once claimed unemployment benefits are creating hobos. Hobos? Who says hobos? In 2007, he voted against the state children‘s health insurance program, denying health coverage to four million children. This guy keeps getting classier and classier. He also voted to uphold, Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell to continue to discriminate against gays in the military. Even Ensign voted against that one. So, that is your newest United States senator, even more radical than the last one. Congratulations, Dean Heller and the good people of Nevada. Enjoy.
UYGUR: Despite the best efforts from Republicans, the American people have already figured out who‘s at fault for rising gas prices. It‘s the oil companies, which is obvious, and also the big banks. A new poll shows 89 percent of Americans blame big oil companies for the rising gas prices. Very logical. The poll also shows that 90 percent of Americans blame Wall Street speculator for $4-per-gallon gas. And of course, they are entirely right. Even Goldman Sachs admits it. In April, the bank warned clients that speculators are artificially boosting oil prices by as much as $20 a barrel.
Now that could cost us as much as 80 cents a gallon for every time we go to the pump extra. Who wants to pay 80 cents extra? Well, that‘s terrible for the rest of us, but you know what? This could have all been avoided. In 2008, House Democrats voted for legislation that would have reined in the speculation. But of course, the Senate Republicans killed it, now, why do they care? Because those big banks and big oil companies, they are the ones that profit from all of this and of course, they are the Republicans‘ top contributors.
All right. Now, let‘s figure out how this all works. I‘m going to bring in Tyson Slocum here, he‘s the director of Public Citizen‘s Energy Program. Tyson, great to have you here. Let me get started with the most obvious question, which is how does the speculation on Wall Street lead to higher gas prices? I think people want to know, how does that work?
TYSON SLOCUM, DIRECTOR, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Right. Well, prices of oil and gasoline aren‘t set by OPEC. They are not set by the Saudis or anybody else like that. It‘s—it‘s—it takes place on trading markets in places like New York and other financial centers, where large banks, like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, are buying and selling commodity contracts. We have removed a lot of the regulations over these markets, allowing these energy companies to have a big chunk of the market and that is uncompetitive and it allows them to engage in huge levels of speculation that end up driving volume and prices up.
You see a lot of price volatility on these markets and that‘s being driven by the actions of just a small handful of very large banks. They are also bringing a lot of money from pensions and wealthy individuals that are investing in commodities, not to hedge their risk, like normal companies do, like airlines and other entities that have exposure to this price of oil and gasoline, but are investing in commodities just to make money. And so the banks are really driving this speculative rise in prices. Like you said, it is out 75 to 80 cents a gallon.
UYGUR: And so, Tyson, I want to dive into that just a little bit more for clarity, right? Because normally supply and demand would control prices but here, the demand for the actual commodity is being boosted up by all the trading so they are pouring in all this money, the banks are into the oil commodity so there by increasing the price of oil which increases our price of gas. Is that right? Do I have that figured out right?
SLOCUM: You have got—for every gallon of gas, there are thousands of dollars in speculative trades behind that gallon of gas that is physically being pumped into your car‘s gas tank. That‘s because the traders on Wall Street, the big banks like Goldman Sachs, are just buying and selling tons of paper contracts. Ninety seven, 98 percent of those trades never result in the physical delivery of a barrel crude oil or gallon of gasoline, it is all just speculation. Now, look, speculation has to play a limited role in these markets. What we at public citizen don‘t like is when speculators are dominating the market, when they are driving the prices beyond the supply/demand fundamentals, because that‘s what‘s killing working families and small businesses right now is we have got this speculation tax of around $30 or $35 a barrel which translates to around the 70, 80 cents a gallon that‘s just pure profit taking by the banks and it really hits all of us hard.
UYGUR: All right.
SLOCUM: And while the oil companies aren‘t necessarily manipulating things, they are making a killing, because their costs to produce oil aren‘t going up. You know it costs them about 18 bucks to extract a barrel but they‘re selling it for more than 100, that‘s huge profits.
UYGUR: Tyson Slocum, thank you for the explanation, we really appreciate it, we‘re out of time now. But I want everybody to understand, more drilling—most gets you three cents a gallon but this speculation costs us 70 to 80 cents a gallon, that‘s what we have to address. And the guys getting rich off of it are the banks and the oil companies as Tyson just explained.
Thank you for watching, everybody. That‘s our show tonight, “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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