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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Jack Hanna, Simon Johnson

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour.

This was the moment when Mitt Romney touched Rick Perry. Touched
him. I mean, physically came in contact with him.


finding your facts on that, because that just doesn`t --

what the facts are.

ROMNEY: Rick, again -- Rick, I`m speaking.

PERRY: You had the -- your newspaper -- the newspaper --

ROMNEY: I`m speaking. I`m speaking. I`m speaking.



MADDOW: There it was -- Mitt Romney laying hands on Rick Perry
during last night`s Republican debate. How did Rick Perry feel about that?

This was the eighth debate of the Republican primary season. Eighth.
I think that`s in part because these things are turning out to be awesome
for ratings. TV, in general, is not getting great ratings right now. But
these debates are rating through the roof.

For whatever reason, because there are a ton of these things and they
happen so frequently now, the Republican candidates` debate is starting to
feel like an ongoing TV show, like we`re all watching new episodes of the
same show that just airs a new episode every week.

As we continue to watch this really entertaining TV show, week after
week, the candidates` strategies for the debates are sort of starting to
feel like it`s their strategy for developing their characters. Their
characters on this ongoing episodic TV show.

Por ejemplo, Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum -- as a character on the
Republican candidates` debate show. Rick Santorum, why are you here on the
Republican candidates` debate show?


mentioned the issue of family, faith, marriage -- the traditional values of
marriage and family. The partial birth abortion ban. Family in America
and faith in America.

A moral conservative. That`s not good for families. Also doesn`t
have anything that takes care of the families.


MADDOW: Rick Santorum`s character on the debate show is the guy who
talks about gay people and abortion and family values all the time and who
complains the other candidates do not do enough of that.

How about the Michele Bachmann character? Why are you here on the
Republican candidates` debate show?


really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President
Obama. President Obama has failed you. President Obama`s plan. It`s
because of President Obama`s. Barack Obama will be a one-term president.


MADDOW: Michele Bachmann`s character on the Republican candidates`
debate show is counter to her reputation as a wing nut. She is the one who
keeps things focused on targeting President Obama.

How about Herman Cain? Herman Cain, want you, why are you here on
the Republican candidates` debate show?


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fortunate enough to become
the Republican nominee, it`s going to be the problem solver who fixes

This is an example of mixing apples and oranges. The state tax is an
apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges.

Take a loaf of bread. It does have five taxes in it right now.


MADDOW: Herman Cain`s character on the Republican candidates` debate
show is like the anti-intellectual, I don`t have to explain anything folksy
guy where things rhyme sometimes, and they often involve food and it all
sounds very, very digestible even when it doesn`t actually make sense.

How about Newt Gingrich? Newt Gingrich, why are you on the
Republican candidates` debate show?


the strongest candidate because of sheer substance. If you go to
and look at the 21st contract with America.


MADDOW: Yes. Of course, Newt Gingrich`s character on the Republican
candidates` debate show is the self-promotional guy that`s there to remind
you he has a Web site and you have a credit card. And wouldn`t you like to
take your credit card to visit that Web site?

How about Ron Paul? Ron Paul, why are you here on the Republican
candidates` debate show?


condemn Ronald Reagan for exchanging weapons for hostages out of Iran? We
all know that was done.

Yes, what?


MADDOW: Yes, what? Ron Paul is playing the character of Ron Paul in
the Republican debate show.

The character of Ron Paul and all its quirky make all the other
candidates uncomfortable awesomeness. If I had my choice there would be a
Ron Paul character in every show like this.

Staying in Texas, why is Rick Perry here on this show?


PERRY: Mitt, you lose all of your standing from my perspective
because you hired illegals in your home. You`re one of the problems, Mitt.

Mitt, while you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of
time, you were 47th in the nation in job creation. That is an absolute
falsehood on its face, Mitt.


MADDOW: Rick Perry`s character in the Republican candidates` debate
show now is the guy trying to unseat the front-runner at every turn. Obama
who? He`s after Mitt Romney.

And Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney as the front-runner, Mitt Romney, why
are you here in the Republican candidates` debate show?

Mitt Romney has been the front-runner in this field from the very
beginning. So, in all eight debates he has tried to sort of float above
everybody else, float above the fray. And for the most part that seeming
presumptive consistent strategy has been working for him.

But the risk of trying to seem above it all is it can sometimes seem
like you`re looking down at everybody from your perch above it all. It can
lead to things like touching your fellow candidates, as if to tell them to
relax. He didn`t actually pat anybody on the head last night, but you
thought maybe that would come next.

Being the above it all character on the debate show also meant on
last night`s episode anyway, also meant lots of complaining about the


ROMNEY: Rick, you had your chance. Let me speak.

I haven`t had a chance to respond yet.

Are you just going to keep talking? Are you going to let me finish
with what I have to say?

You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking. And I
suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you got
to let both people speak.


MADDOW: And in meantime, go to your room and you don`t get dinner.
OK, dad.

But the real problem for Mitt Romney is when the above it all affect
slips -- when he gets bothered, when he drops that character, when he does
end up getting pulled into the fray. At least at one moment last night he
seemed to say something revealingly brutally honest.


ROMNEY: We went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have any
illegals working on our property. That`s -- I`m running for office, for
Pete`s sake, I can`t have illegals.


MADDOW: So there`s your above it all character, America. The
dramatic reveal on the show when we finally get at the motivations for that
character`s actions.

The reason he`s doing what he`s doing, right? The reason we just
learned why he wouldn`t want to hire undocumented immigrants is because
he`s running for office. So, it would look bad.

Most of these candidates know they have no hope of winning, so they
are defining their characters, essentially for that next book deal, or the
next political office they might be seeking for their next move one way or
another. That`s why they are still in the race, for the sake of whatever
they`ve got a better shot at than actually becoming president.

That`s why, for example, a guy like Rick Santorum is still in the
race. That`s why Rick Santorum isn`t quitting. He gets a platform for his
views. He gets to be more famous and America gets to be entertained by his
candidacy on the Republican candidates debate show, with no threat that
Rick Santorum would end up anywhere nearer to the White House than he is
right now.

The unexpected development here, though, is that arguably, the one
guy up there who really thinks he is going to be president, who really is
already obviously campaigning as if he`s in the general election and has to
worry about electability, it turns out that he -- and I think this might be
an accidental thing -- he has just hopped in bed with one of the extraneous
characters on the show, with one of the "I`m just here to get famous" guys.

And he hopped in bed with him on what is probably the most outside
the mainstream stance that any Republican candidate for president has taken
on any subject this entire year.


SANTORUM: One of the things I will talk about that no president has
talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this
country, the whole sexual libertine idea, many in the Christian faith said,
"Well, that`s OK, contraception is OK." It`s not OK because it`s a license
to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to what, how things are
supposed to be.


MADDOW: Wanting to be famous candidate, Rick Santorum, speaking out
against contraception.

And that is sort of par of the course for Rick Santorum. Rick
Santorum`s whole career has been about sexual politics, about taking
stances like that, trying to say that the government ought to make
decisions about contraception, not you.

It`s not very newsworthy on its own that Rick Santorum is campaigning
against contraception now, that he`s the no contraception candidate. It`s
not newsworthy on its own simply because there`s no chance that Rick
Santorum will be president. So, who cares what he thinks, right?

What is newsworthy, though, is that the Republican front-runner, the
guy who people think is the likely nominee of the Republican Party, no
matter how well Herman Cain polls, the guy who is the front-runner, Mitt
Romney, has now essentially maybe by accident, maybe by way of being
tricked by Mike Huckabee, taken the same position as Rick Santorum on birth

Listen to this.


MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: Would you have supported the constitutional
amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?

ROMNEY: Absolutely.


MADDOW: That was Mitt Romney earlier this month on Mike Huckabee`s
FOX TV show saying he`d absolutely have supported a constitutional
amendment in Massachusetts to define life as beginning at conception.

Now, this is not a hypothetical abstract question. It`s about
Massachusetts but it`s not about the country. A constitutional amendment
on that very issue is up for a vote next month in Mississippi. They call
these things personhood amendments.

Mike Huckabee was asking about it in part because he`s one of the
Mississippi personhood amendments celebrity endorsers, along with Brett
Favre`s wife.

Defining life at conception or at fertilization as Mississippi is
trying to do, is a real policy position with real consequences, like for
starters, it would ban abortion altogether, full stop. It would also ban
many fertility treatments. And both sides seem to agree it would probably
ban many popular forms of birth control. Personhood amendments make a
miscarriage a matter for criminal investigation. They may make the pill,
the IUD even, illegal.

Before they realize that banning birth control was not all that
popular an idea, even in Mississippi, the yes on personhood amendment folks
in Mississippi used to promote their anti-birth control views right on
their Web site about the amendment. They have since taken this language
down since it started getting quite a bit of attention.

But, now, Mitt Romney says he would absolutely support a
constitutional amendment like Mississippi`s. He would support a personhood
amendment. He would support a constitutional amendment that would ban the
most popular forms of birth control in America.

Mitt Romney has not yet clarified this comment since he first made
it. Does he really want to make birth control illegal for the whole

We have tried repeatedly to get an answer from the Mitt Romney
campaign on this issue but no luck. Now, even the anti-birth control
people who are pushing that amendment in Mississippi said they want to know
if Mitt Romney meant what he said, telling "Politico" that they can`t get
him to explain his position either even though he told Mike Huckabee he`s
with them.

So, which is it, Mitt Romney? Are you the Rick Santorum character in
disguise or are you the Mr. Electable, Mr. Involve It All, Mr. Everybody
Just Calm Down?


MADDOW: The Republican debate audience makes itself famous again for
cheering something that horrifies most people. It happened again. That`s

Plus, Jack Hanna is here. Jack Hanna is here after his role in
helping solve the bizarre and tragic exotic animal conflagration in central
Ohio last night.

That is all coming up.


MADDOW: This sign, deer crossing. You don`t even need to speak any
language to know when you see this, watch out for deer on the road.

This is moose crossing which does not apply in most states but works
in the same principle as the deer crossing sign.

There`s also the pedestrian crossing symbol, do not hit the people
crossing the street.

All simple essentially universal easily understood symbols conveying
common dangers to look out for when you are on the road.

Last night in Zanesville, Ohio, motorists were confronted with this
warning. Caution: exotic animals.

The sign had not been hacked. This was a real warning for a real
thing that happened in Ohio last night -- something that has pretty much
transfixed not only central Ohio but the whole country.


FEMALE ANCHOR: Breaking news right now. Stay inside. Protect your
family. That`s the message after dozens of dangerous exotic animals
escaped and on the loose right now in Muskingum County.

MALE ANCHOR: The strong directive from County Sheriff Lutz saying
stay inside. There just might be a lion, a tiger or grizzly roaming in
your neighborhood.

MALE ANCHOR: Breaking news. Dozens of dangerous animals including
tigers, lions and wolves on the loose near Columbus, Ohio, after apparently
being set free from a preserve.

REPORTER: Cougars, tigers, lions, cheetahs and grizzly and black

REPORTER: Even giraffes and camels are loose in central Ohio.

REPORTER: The owner is dead. The cages unlocked.

MALE ANCHOR: Police are saying it looks like the owner set them free
and then killed himself.

REPORTER: More than 50 law enforcement officials, some equipped with
night vision and armed with assault rifles, hunted the animals through the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we`re shooting to kill.

REPORTER: About 45 of them escaped. The numbers have been
fluctuating throughout the day.

MALE ANCHOR: It`s basically a big game hunt.

REPORTER: They estimate they`ve already shot between 30 and 35 of
the animals.


MADDOW: By this afternoon the full scope of this strange, strange
tragedy was starting to become clear.


animals we were dealing with was approximately 56 animals on this farm.
There are 48 animals we had to put down. Those animals included one wolf,
six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one
baboon, three mountain lions and 18 tigers.

enjoy what they did last night. They have to go home to their families and
kids what they had to do last night. Let`s hope this never happens again
in any state what these guys did last night. It`s a tragedy for the animal
world is what it is.


MADDOW: Tonight, only one animal -- excuse me, tonight all 56
animals have been accounted for. Only six of those animals are still

When their owner, Terry Thompson, released the animals, he doesn`t
just release them into the wild, he released them into Ohio, into semi-
rural suburban Columbus, Ohio -- alongside Interstate 70 where reportedly
two of the animals lost their lives in traffic, presumably bewildered where
did that thing come from traffic.

Terry Thompson not only opened the animals` cages, but he reportedly
cut the cage wire. So, even if the animals had been able to be brought
back to their cages, the cages would no longer hold. He was condemning
those animals to die just as absolutely as he was about to take his own
life last night.

But how is it that one man on one farm in central Ohio could even
have 56 exotic animals to begin with? He was a convicted felon who had
just been released from federal prison for possessing illegal guns,
possessing lots of illegal guns. Someone convicted on animal cruelty
charges in the past.

The reason a guy with that record was allowed to have dozens of
exotic animals, including giraffes and lions and camels is that Terry
Thompson lived in Ohio. Ohio is a state that has lax, as in no regulations
about keeping exotic animals. Apparently anybody could do.

It was not always this way. The immediate previous governor of Ohio,
Democrat Ted Strickland, put in place rules in Ohio about the keeping of
big cats, bears, wolves, nonhuman primates, large constricting and venomous
snakes and crocodilians.

Governor Strickland banned the private ownership of all those
animals, in large part because of what happened in this man, 24-year-old
Brent Kendra was feeding one of nine black bears who belonged to a guy who
kept the animals for a bear wrestling act, when the bear attacked him and
killed him. Because of what happened to Brent Kendra, the plan in Ohio was
to make sure nothing like this happened again.

But this year, the new John Kasich administration took over and the
Ohio governor`s office decided the exotic animal ban was not for them.
They let the exotic animal rules in Ohio expire. Too much regulation, they

Quote, "Our standpoint right now is this is not something we`re
enforcing. If it was enforced at this very moment, it would hurt small
businesses." No telling how on earth small businesses are helped by these
49 dead animals, 18 of them rare Bengal tigers, among the most threatened
species in the world.

It is frankly bizarre that this is a political issue at all, that
wild animal trafficking is the sort of thing about which there would be
controversy that there ought to be some rules. But believe it or not, this
is not the first time this has come up. This is not even the first time
this has come up even just this year. It`s not just John Kasich in Ohio.

Last month, Republicans in Congress called in a snake breeder to
testify against what they called the job killing regulations of the Obama
administration. This guy breeds exotic pythons. He sells them by mail
order as pets and does not want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban
him from doing that. I`m sure he doesn`t. And one of the reasons we have
government is so guys like that aren`t the final arbiter of whether or not
it`s in our national interest to have guys selling pythons as if they are

Hello, discarded python pets in the Everglades. How is it going?

This is how the Republican-led House spent its time on job creation
last month, inveighing against the onerous regulation of pythons. Because
if we only stopped regulating pythons, that would fix unemployment.

And in Ohio, this is our regulation-free paradise today. It`s
astonishing the only human primate casualty was self-inflicted.

Jack Hanna is director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Hanna and zoo members helped evacuate the handful of animals that remained
on Terry Thompson`s farm through the Columbus Zoo where they are tonight.
Jack Hanna is also host of "Into the Wild" and "Wild Countdown."

Mr. Hanna, it`s a real honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you
for taking the time.

HANNA: OK. I just want to say several things. I think someone said
that Columbus, Ohio. It`s in Zanesville, Ohio, but 55 miles away where it
all happened.

And also there were no giraffes or camels there whatsoever and there
were no cheetahs there. So, just a few things there.

One last thing that was said about Governor Kasich -- remember,
Governor Strickland did sign a bill right before he left office. The
problem he left out is, who is it go ahead and take care of laws he wanted
to have enforced? We don`t have the people to go knock on a door to find
out where the animals are, number one.

Number two, like, for example, you said -- you`re correct in when you
said we had 55 animals out there. Say I went out there last week and was
going to go there to take animals. Where would the animals go? There was
no place to go.

So, it`s not a matter of Governor Kasich, Democrat or Republican. I
don`t want to get into that. The governor called us, two weeks that he`s
in office, he said we have to have a committee immediately to form so we
can work this plan out, proper people to go in here and take the animals,
shut these auctions down.

We were about six weeks away from enforcing this entire thing.
Obviously, this tragic thing happened last night. We`re on with the
governor for half an hour to an hour, we met all day, and say put the
committees together to stop the auctions immediately, as well as put the
plans we`ve been working on into force so we can no have a repository for
these animals.

What do we do with 55 animals? We can`t go up there to Columbus Zoo
and we have the largest zoos in North America, by the way, top three out of
220. We have no place to put 55 lions and tigers and these animals.

So, now, we`re going to build something in the wild, 10,000 acres we
have, a repository so now, throughout this state and the United States we
can shut these things down, these people like this, and have these families
and put them somewhere and stop this over a period of 10 years to where no
one can purchase the lions and tigers like you said.

And it`s a disaster. I had to sit there all day today and thank God
we had no loss of human life and watch the 30, 40 animals lined up on the
ground which is something I`ll never forget as long as I live.

MADDOW: When you talk about the idea nobody should be able to
purchase animals like this, Sheriff Lutz said at this afternoon`s press
conference he thinks that Ohio really needs to have different rules about
this sort of thing. Obviously, you`ve been part of processes to try to get
around to that.

Do you think had the rules been different this could have been

HANNA: I think so, yes. Not just under Governor Kasich or Governor
Strickland. This has been going on for years. Not just in this state but
other states throughout the country. Other states have passed laws and
now, it`s getting better.

This state, obviously, this is what happened here, is now going to
follow suit. Anyone who wants to go to an animal auction here the next six
months, I said, yes, you go elsewhere, they`ll be closed down. Anyone that
wants to do what this man did the next year or so, I suggest you be ready
for a real good inspection or else your animals will be taken.

I`m not talking about bona fide breeders. We have a lot of -- not a
lot -- several great breeders in this state that help the zoological world.
Without them, we`d be doomed for some of the animals. These are people who
spend hundreds of thousands of dollars helping us with animals in their
private areas. That`s not what we`re gunning for.

We want the people who are trying to do what we saw here last night,
just collecting animals. Let`s say I get a raccoon, all of a sudden I want
a bear, then I want a tiger, then I want 18 tigers. Can you imagine what
it looked like last night up there, dark and sitting one hour? All of a
sudden, the sheriff called saying there are lions over here, this yard and
that yard. All of a sudden, you see 18 tigers coming down the road at you,
jumping fences, going everywhere.

A decision had to be made in a split second. What do we do?
Darkness is coming. We have 40-something carnivores running around here
right now. The sheriff had to make a right decision. Or else we`d have
beyond stories in Zanesville, Ohio.

You wouldn`t have wanted to see what would happen this morning if he
hadn`t taken action.

MADDOW: In terms of the overall tragedy here and being able to see
the animals that did not survive this tragedy. In terms of conservation,
is there any way to tell us which of these animals being killed is the
biggest loss in terms of conservation? Which of these, I guess, is not
just heartbreaking but also important to the survival of their species?

HANNA: That`s a good question. Obviously the loss of any animal,
whether it`s a bear or endangered species, it could be a goat, it`s a
living creature.

Now, with that said, obviously, you`re talking 18 Bengal tigers.
Right now, we thought about 5,000 Bengal left in the wild. We found out
last year, we have less than 1,400 Bengal tigers left in India, 1,400.
This animal could be extinct in our lifetime.

Who would ever thought that when I was a young boy, just getting in
this field, 30-somethying years ago? It`s surprising. So, what got me
today once we knew everything was accounted for, was seeing that 18 Bengal
tigers, one of the rarest creatures in the world is laying there because as
you said, a man was selfish enough to think he could open the gates,
everything, go out there.

Did he want the animals to kill the people? Maybe. I don`t know
what he wanted. But whatever he did he didn`t accomplish because what
happened is, nobody was killed. Nobody was harmed. It`s a miracle. Now
all the animals are gone. That`s what`s tragedy about this.

MADDOW: Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, host of
"Into the Wild" and "Wild Countdown" -- thanks very much for your time
tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.

HANNA: Thank you all.

MADDOW: We will be right back.


MADDOW: One more thing to say -- one more thing in today`s news
about Ohio, and specifically in this case about Ohio Governor John Kasich.
This is not something about exotic animals getting killed on Interstate 70.

This spring you may recall, Governor John Kasich signed into law a
bill stripping union rights in Ohio. That led to the biggest protests at
Ohio`s state capitol ever and to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans signing
petitions to get that law on the ballot so it could be recalled.

Now, recall is scheduled for November 8th. Voting no on Ohio`s Issue
2 will recall Kasich and the Republicans` union stripping law. Voting yes
on Issue 2 would keep the law in place.

No polling out today from PPP shows Ohio wants to get rid of John
Kasich`s union stripping law by a 20-point margin. People are in favor of
the recall 56 percent to 36 percent. Wow. And we`re only four weeks away
from voting.

The same poll shows if Ohio could vote for governor again, John
Kasich would lose this time and lose very badly. He would lose by 14

So, yes, elections do have consequences and sometimes the
consequences of those elections also have consequences.

We`ll have a lot more on that subject coming up.


MADDOW: There are lots of things you can control during a
presidential debate. If you have watched any of the Republican
presidential primary debates over the last few months, you probably notice
the TV networks that host them, including this network, stage manage those
debates to within an inch of their lives.

Last night`s Republican debate, for instance, was hosted by CNN, and
before the debate even started the network outlined all of the different
variables they had under control.

Quote, "The candidates will have at their podium a pad of paper,
supplied by CNN, a pen supplied by CNN, a bottle of water supplied by CNN,
and an empty glass provided by CNN."

These are the things that you as the debate host have the ability to
control. But you know the one thing you can`t really control at a debate
no matter how much planning and hard work you put into it is the debate
audience, the crowd that`s come along to watch your debate.

One of the unexpected develops of the Republican primary season has
been the extent to which debate audiences have made some of the Republican
Party`s biggest headlines, whether it was cheering for executions during
the NBC debate at the Reagan Library or booing a gay American soldier
serving in Iraq, at a debate last month in Florida. The Republican debate
audiences have been stealing the show.

And, last night, during the super stage managed CNN debate in Nevada,
it happened again.


COOPER: Herman Cain, I`ve got to ask you, you said, -- two weeks
ago, you said, "Don`t blame Wall Street, don`t blame the big banks. If you
don`t have a job, and you`re not rich, blame yourself."

That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say


CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here`s why.


CAIN: Wall Street didn`t put in failed economic policies. Wall
Street didn`t spend a trillion dollars that didn`t do any good. Wall
Street isn`t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion.
They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their


CAIN: So I do stand by them.


MADDOW: Don`t blame Wall Street for your economic troubles, America.
Blame yourself -- or Democrats or something. Woo! Crowd goes wild.

I understand that the whole personal responsibility brand is very big
in Republican Party politics, the whole pull yourself up by the boot straps
thing and blame the Democrats thing. I get that. I get those are all very
exciting ideas.

But here`s the thing -- in this case, it is actually sort of OK to
blame Wall Street. Technically speaking, you can blame Wall Street. What
we are suffering through as a country right now is not some vague
inexplicable economic downturn. This is not a cyclical thing.

What happened was Wall Street blew up and they took the entire
country down with them. This is one of those recessions that was really
caused by a financial system crisis. So, it`s not scapegoating. You
really can go ahead and blame Wall Street.

Salmonella is not the stomach flu. You ate undercooked poultry.
Blame the salmonella. Blame that.

You don`t need to change anything about your life other than not
eating undercooked poultry.

This recession is not a generalized illness. We caught it from Wall
Street specifically.

We used to have an idea in this country called retirement. It was
the sort of rosy idea you could stop working someday and you won`t have to
be a beggar for the rest of your life after you do. You`ll have money to
set aside to get you through golden years, a nest egg.

The whole idea of retirement essentially had three pillars to it.
One of them was your pension. Once you retire, you get a fixed payment
from the entity you spent your life working for.

Second pillar was your savings. Money you set aside for yourself
over the years.

The third pillar was Social Security. The government-run retirement
fund you pay into your whole working life.

Those are the three pillars: pension, savings, Social Security. That
is what made the idea of retiring possible in this country. That is what
made the prospect of getting old less scary than it otherwise would be.

But what`s happened to those three pillars over the last generation
has been really good for one specific entity in America but has not been
good for the rest of us.

Take the first pillar: pensions. Pensions used to be the primary way
your employer would help you plan for your retirement. Your monthly
pension once you retired would be a fixed sum of money determined by things
like the amount of years you worked at your company and your final salary
when you finally stopped working. A pension was essentially a guaranteed
nest egg.

Is your company you work for right now provide you with a pension?
If you`re like the vast majority of people now, the answer is no. In 1980,
30 million Americans in the private sector enjoyed a safe, secure pension
provided by their employer. Look at what`s happened to that number since
1980. The -- yes, the number of people with pensions has shriveled and
shriveled and shriveled every single year.

What has replaced the pension? Look what happened the last
generation. As pensions have steadily disappeared, they have been replaced
by shiny new things called 401(k)s. The 401(k) system.

And you know what? I`m going to say it -- 401(k)s are kind of a
scam. Rather than having a safe secure guaranteed retirement in the form
of a pension, 401(k) allows hardworking Americans to instead gamble your
savings on Wall Street -- 401(k)s are a way to turn your pension into an
investment vehicle managed by Wall Street.

So, instead of a nest egg that is for you, that is free from the
economic currents of the day, with any sort of guaranteed benefit, instead
of that, your retirement fund gets sliced and diced and divvied up for Wall
Street to play it.

Whereas pensions for the most part used to be separate from the Wall
Street banking/casino apparatus, 401(k) plans just put Wall Street in the
middle of the action, right between you and your retirement -- which is by
definition a risk laden venture for the middle class. But it is a great
windfall for Wall Street.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: For millions of Americans, the most important
investment of a lifetime is the 401(k) plan for retirement savings. But
there`s new research showing, there could be hidden problems in your plan.

The legislation to create 401(k)s passed in 1978. Now, 40 million
Americans have one. So what`s the hidden problem?

REPORTER: In every portfolio, small, critics say hidden fees that by
retirement could take a huge bite out of your profits.

MARIANNE LEEDY, THE SCARBOROUGH GROUP: I think very few people know
much of anything at all about fees. They don`t ask those kinds of

REPORTER: Should they be asking? Experts say yes -- 401(k) fees
average less than 1 percent, but over the life of the account grow to major

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The total cost to the American public is
something in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year.


MADDOW: One and a half to $2 billion a year right into Wall Street`s
pockets just in fees. And that was back in 1997. What to you think it is

A recent Department of Labor study guessed Wall Street fees cost a
worker 28 percent of the value of your plan over the span of your career.
And so, yes, the 401(k) system is kind of a scam -- a scam that we`ve all
been made to buy into as a replacement for pensions.

We`ve all been sort of conned into putting our money into the stock
market as a means of supposedly guaranteeing our future. If you wanted a
guarantee, if you wanted security, would you go to Wall Street for it?

What was once a strong pillar of our retirement as over the last
generation turned into essentially a slush fund for Wall Street.

But there`s always that second pillar, right? Personal savings, they
deal with personal savings is that in addition to your pension, you could
also put money away over the course of your career and it would be there
when you retired. And that used to be the way it worked.

In the 1970s and early `80s, the personal savings rate in America was
pretty good. People are saving on average about 12 percent of their
monthly disposable income. What`s happened since then? What`s happened
over the last generation?

Yes. Americans stopped saving. Not necessarily by choice but rather
as a result of what was happening to wages in America over the same time.
Since 1980 the average income for the bottom 90 percent of Americans has
really not gone up a whole lot. In fact, it has mostly stayed perfectly
flat for a generation, even as the top 1 percent of income earners have
seen their incomes skyrocket.

So, for one thing, if you`re not making more money, you can`t really
save more money. For another thing, saving money by sticking it in the
bank as your grandfather probably advised you, that has essentially been
discouraged over the last generation by banking policies that mean you
can`t earn interest on money if you try to save it.

Here`s what happened to the interest rates for bank deposits over the
last generation. That`s the interest rate that the bank pays you for
letting them hold on to your money and loan it out. You used to be able to
make some money off saving, used to make some interest. You were
incentivized to put your money away. But not anymore.

And so, what do you do when you have disposable income that you`d
like to turn into retirement money but can`t make that happen by keeping in
a bank? How do you grow that money?


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Tonight, the stock market on a roll. It`s
no longer the playground of the rich and risk takers among us. A survey
now shows 43 percent of Americans are now investors. That is double the
number just seven years ago.

REPORTER: It`s what some call the gold rush of the Internet age --
individual investors online with the power of a broker in their own hands.
Day traders, some of them doing it full time, like Richard Caines.

RICHARD CAINES, DAY TRADER: In the morning, I`m able to buy a stock,
turn around sell it 15 minutes later and you can cash out with $10,000 or

REPORTER: The action is no longer just on Wall Street but Main


MADDOW: And when it works, it`s awesome and when it doesn`t.

The decline in the personal savings rate in the country has also
ended up being a huge boon for Wall Street. You can`t make your money grow
by putting it in a bank anymore, put it in Wall Street. See what happens.
Pull the lever.

The one pillar that we are left with, the one thing standing between
retired Americans and the possibility of the bread line at this point is
the last pillar you see standing: Social Security. Social Security which
is being attacked from the political right as a Ponzi scheme and failure
and the only thing we can do to fix is it let Wall Street get its hands on
that one, too.


BROKAW: President Bush`s second term agenda, ambitious plans
including a pledge to partially privatize Social Security. It`s a simple
but controversial idea. Workers would be allowed to put a portion of
Social Security taxes into private accounts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That could conceivably shift an enormous amount
of new money into the stock market.


MADDOW: Yes, the stock market where they need it. Privatizing
Social Security, putting the money at the mercy of Wall Street, putting it
at the mercy of Wall Street, the one pillar we haven`t yet allowed to be
touched by Wall Street has been the goal of the Republican Party for the
last decade. It`s a goal shared at the moment by the Republicans` current
presidential front-runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Handing Wall Street the one pillar that is left standing after an
entire generation of Americans watched their retirements go up in smoke --
what could possibly go wrong?

As individual Americans have watched their retirements, or the
possibility of retirement, eaten by Wall Street over the last generation,
Wall Street, itself, has done great. In 1980, Wall Street profits as a
percentage of all U.S. business profits were about 7 percent -- 7 percent
of all business profits in the country came from the financial industry.
Want to see what`s happened to that number since then?

By about 2001, Wall Street profits had essentially eaten the business
world -- 41 percent of all business profits in the United States came from
Wall Street.

How`s that worked out for the rest of the country?

Since the Great Depression and the New Deal, we have had an idea as a
country about how Americans will get old. How we will deal with that as a
nation. Getting old may suck, but the alternative is worse.

And our idea was that here in America, you are allowed to retire, you
don`t have to work until the day you die and you do not have to become a
beggar once your working days are over. For nearly a century now, that
basic American dignity of an idea has rested on three pillars. Two of
which have already been surrendered to Wall Street. And one more that is
dangerously close to being next.

What that would mean, just ahead.



COOPER: Herman Cain, I`ve got to ask you, you said, quote -- two
weeks ago, you said, "Don`t blame Wall Street, don`t blame the big banks.
If you don`t have a job, and you`re not rich, blame yourself."

That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say


CAIN: Yes, I do still say that. And here`s why.



MADDOW: Blame yourself. Blame yourself. Don`t blame Wall Street.

Joining us for the interview is Simon Johnson, professor of economics
at MIT Sloan and contributing business editor at "Huffington Post." He
also serves on the panel of academic advisers to the Congressional Budget
Office and his old job was at the International Monetary Fund where he was
the chief economist.

Professor Johnson, it`s a really pleasure I to have you on the show.
Thank you for being here.


MADDOW: Last night at the Republican candidates` debates, Herman
Cain was cheered for doubling down on his line if you are I not rich you
should blame yourself. Don`t blame Wall Street. He`s saying essentially
Wall Street didn`t get us in to the economic mess that we are in now. It`s
individual human failing by the unemployed.

Do you understand that analysis? Is there an economic point to that

JOHNSON: Not really. Wall Street blew itself up. It`s a financial
crisis that produced the most severe recession since World War II. It`s
the biggest banks, in particular that have done enormous damage, 8 million
jobs lost, millions of homes lost, many massive increase in the federal
government debt as a direct consequences of what the biggest banks did and
were allowed to get away with.

MADDOW: In terms of American decisions about -- I guess American
values, our future as a country and our relationship to Wall Street, I
talked in a segment before about this, about whether we are chipping away
at the fundamental American idea about getting old, about whether it is
economically feasible to stop working before the end of your life.

Are we chipping away at that? Has Wall Street done damage to that
basic idea in this country?

JOHNSON: Yes. We are certainly chipping away at that idea. I`m
personally scared about the idea of retiring, trying to stop working.

I`m a relatively privileged, advantaged person, I understand that,
but it`s still not appealing to me to fall back on, what? On my savings,
that can be eroded by the vagaries of the market? On Social Security,
which may not be there for me?

On Medicare and Medicaid, we should always talk about that, because
will you outlive your financial resources? Will you reach the age of 92
and not be able to afford any kind of health care? That`s a real
possibility today also.

MADDOW: In terms of the things that are available to us, as we age,
I`m struck by the GAO report that just out that says as poverty rates have
been increasing, among every group of Americans, including Americans 45 to
54 and 55 to 64, the one group of Americans for which poverty is not
increasing right now are those eligible for Social Security, people who are
65 and up. It makes me feel desperate that Social Security be held on to
and kept the way it is.

How much pressure do you really see out there for Social Security to
be privatized, to be also turned over to Wall Street?

JOHNSON: There`s clearly some pressure and that`s reflected in the
segment that you played from the Republican debate. I don`t think it`s
actually going to go very far. Last time when President Bush put it on the
agenda, this was enormous and quite justified push back.

If you go back to the 1930s, before Social Security was invented, the
poverty rates among old people were absolutely appalling. If you go to the
`60s before Medicare was in, before we had a federal health care program
for the elderly, there was an enormous amount of poverty caused by the
health care bills of older people. So, those are very real experiences and
many Americans remember them and can relate to them.

And as you said before, Rachel, the other pillars of retirement have
been chipped away so clearly and so definitively, why would you let go of
the last one, which is Social Security?

MADDOW: Ron Suskind says in his new book about this administration,
that President Obama wanted to break up Citibank during the financial
catastrophe. He said he was thwarted by people within his administration.
And that`s interesting in terms of the dynamics of the administration. But
I wonder as the administration tries to catch the tiger by the tail in
terms of people being angry at Wall Street and this Occupy Wall Street
movement, trying to identify with that populism -- are there hard line
stances that they could take toward Wall Street that wouldn`t just be
demonstrable about their intentions but would make a difference in terms of
aligning American and Wall Street interests more closely in the future?

JOHNSON: Absolutely there are things they can do. For example, the
attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman, wants a relatively tough,
expansive settlement with the banks that will fundamentally address the
issues of negative equity the losses people have on their homes relative to
the size of the mortgages, as that stands $700 billion. Mr. Schneiderman,
Mr. Beau Biden of Delaware wants to address those issues.

The Obama administration is not willing. The Obama administration
wants to go for a low-ball $20 billion settlement just on robo-signing.
They should move their position toward Mr. Schneiderman and towards Mr.
Beau Biden.

MADDOW: Professor Simon Johnson of MIT and "The Huffington Post,"
former chief for the IMF -- I don`t know who started to speak to you. It
wasn`t me. But I`m sorry about that, sir. I wasn`t trying to interrupt

Thanks very much for being with us tonight. I appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

MADDOW: We will be right back.



STATE REP. ALVIN OTT (R), WISCONSIN: Father, we ask your blessing
today as we start a session again and as we become busy and trying to do
things that will help the people of the state of Wisconsin create jobs,
less regulation and so on and so forth.


MADDOW: So on and so forth. That was the opening prayer for the
sort of a special session of the Wisconsin legislature. The state`s
Republican Governor Scott Walker calling the legislature back into the
capital for a special session specifically to work on jobs. Governor
Walker did this once before in January.

But as unemployment continued to rise in Wisconsin, the governor has
re-upped his efforts to sound like he`s working on jobs. So, we got this
special jobs-focus, job-centric, all about jobs, very special legislative
jobs, jobs, jobs session. It is even branded -- they are calling the
special session "Back to Work Wisconsin."

What exactly is the Republican-controlled legislature in Wisconsin
working at their "Back to Work Wisconsin" jobs, jobs, jobs thing? Well, on
the schedule for today was a hearing for Senate Bill 237.

Senate Bill 237 is an overall of sex ed. Jobs, jobs, jobs,
everybody. It is a conservative overhaul of health class to eliminate
loose talk in school about puberty, parenting, the use of contraceptives
and barrier methods to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

In the place of all of that useless information that teenagers
definitely don`t need to know anything about, the Republicans at their
special jobs, jobs, jobs legislative session want them to present
abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior of unmarried pupils.

Maybe this is the jobs, jobs, jobs part. Wisconsin Republicans want
teenager there to be taught to, quote, "identify the skills necessary to
remain abstinent." Scott Walker has got skills, yo.

At least when they did the union-busting thing, they even bother to
try to make an argument that it was tangentially related to the economy.
Now, they are holding a "Back to Work Wiwsconsin" jobs, jobs, jobs special
legislative session to roll back sex ed. Your tax dollars at work.

Now, it`s time for THE ED SHOW. Good night.


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