Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Christine Todd Whitman, Sam Seder, Paul Douglas, Bob Herbert,
Victoria DeFrancesco Sotto, Antonia Juhasz; Antonia Juhasz, Victoria
DeFrancesco Soto, Josh Barro, Bob Herbert, Sam Seder
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris
The U.N. today is expected to vote on whether to send as many as 300
unarmed military observers to Syria amid concerns from the U.S. and other
countries that Syria is not fully observing the ceasefire there.
And the total of six secret service agents have now resigned in the
Colombian prostitution scandal. Senator Chuck Grassley fresh from calling
the president stupid is now calling based on what it is not clear for the
hotel records of White House staff to be checked as well.
And we`re going to talk today about the back and forth this week
between President Obama and Mitt Romney over Romney`s privileged
upbringing, but I want to start with my "Story of the Week." The meaning
of green. Tomorrow is Earth Day. As you can probably tell, if you saw the
pulsing green peacock on MSNBC this week, this is "Green is Universal" week
here at our parent company.
The idea behind "Green Is Universal" aside from being a fairly depth
exercise and branding is that environmentalism isn`t scary or abstract but
rather easy, personal and digestible. And given how daunting the facts are
about climate change, how monumental our environmental challenges seem,
there`s really something to be said in breaking it down into small,
discreet changes in our behavior.
Hence, the one small thing aspect of the campaign which offers
visitors to the "Green is Universal" website, a menu of small things like
purchase clothing made from organic cotton, power down by computer or
carpool to work one day a week. Now, "Green is Universal" isn`t the first
or last campaign corporation lifestyle magazine or cultural outlet to
conflate personal consumption choices with environmental salvation.
But to the extent, these campaigns further a mindset that allows to us
think we can dispatch our responsibility to heal the planet through an
abbreviated shower or a slightly lower thermostat that can have actually
insidious effect, because here is the unpleasant though necessary truth,
we cannot mitigate climate change through individual action or moral
It is fundamentally a collective action problem. The most profound
tragedy of the comments in the history of human life on the planet and the
only ultimate solution requires collective action by way of government
intervention and regulation. That said, there is a core truth that one
small thing does capture.
There is no single silver bullet solution to climate change. Climate
change is a very big problem, but luckily, for us, it`s a big problem that
can be broken down into small and more manageable ones. Princeton
researchers, Robert Socolow and Steve Pacala have formalizes idea with what
they call climate wedges.
They start here in 1957 and show how carbon emissions rose to an
estimated eight billion metric tons by the year 2007. They project that
by 2057, mid-century, if we continue business as usual, emissions will be
up here at 16 billion metric tons a carbon a year which would raise the
world`s temperature by an estimated nine degrees.
Basically, game over for the planet. Now, this is where researchers,
Socolow and Pacala, say we need to get to do avert catastrophic disaster.
This is the flat path to keeping our planet, at least, closer to the status
quo. And that triangle there, the space between our projected path if we
continue business as usual and where we need to be to keep things the way
they are now is what they call the stabilization triangle.
The stabilization triangle is crucially important to understand
because it represents the big problem that we need to break up into
smaller, manageable ones. Within this triangle, our eight wedges, eight
things we need to do immediately to keep things from spiraling out of
control over the next 50 years. Each of these wedges is a big deal.
For instance, doubling average fuel efficiency, that`s one wedge, or
reducing the number of average miles traveled per car, per year from 10,000
to 5,000. That`s one part of the wedge. Or increasing our current solar
capacity by 700 times, that`s another wedge, but if these seem totally
daunting, there are things that can be done closer to home at the state and
local levels as well.
California, for example, started requiring more energy efficient
buildings and appliances back in the 1970s and now produces 10 percent less
greenhouse gas emissions per person than in 1990. This week, New York City
announced its soliciting bids to top the former fresh kills land field site
on Staten Island with a wind farm or solar panels. All these efforts start
to add up.
For instance, wind power in American increased temple (ph) during this
past decade, which you can see on this map here. And increasing wind power
capacity by 25 times is one of the climate wedges. There are even ways to
think creatively about these wedges that don`t depend on the legislative
The solar electric light fund, wires villages and developing world
without access to electricity with solar panels putting them on a
trajectory of development and empowerment not relying on the polluting and
expensive diesel generators. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, volunteers for
the home energy efficiency team are organizing monthly barn raising
retrofits for homes there.
And a new start-up called rewire is seeking to use the online
organizing techniques perfected by move on and the Obama campaign to help
solar power spread virally, because if we`re going to get to 700 times
current capacity, it will require a social and cultural shift not unlike
what happened with Facebook or the Arab spring on Twitter.
All of this requires us to work with each other, to work collectively
and not alone. Individual consumer choices must change in the aggregate
but getting the scale of change requires us to engage with each other, not
just with our own cotton shirts or shorter showers. It requires us to be
citizens and not just consumers.
Avoiding climate disaster will require not just one small thing but
many small things and many large things and many things in between.
Joining me today, we have former Bush EPA administrator and New Jersey
governor, Christine Todd Whitman, author of "It`s My Party To The Battle
for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America " and co-chair of the
Republican National Leadership Counsel.
Sam Seder is on the program, hosts the "Majority Report" at
Majority.FM and co-host of the "Ring of Fire" radio show. Victoria
DeFrancesco Sotto, communications director for the group Latino Decisions
and a visiting scholar at the University of Texas, Austin, and legendary
former "New York Times" columnist --
HAYES: -- author of the book "Promises Betrayed: Waking up from the
American Dream," also now as the think-tank (ph) Demos. It`s great to have
you all here. So, let`s talk about climate, which is probably my favorite
topic, because I think before we can get to -- right now, I think that
here`s the problem, right? If you cover politics, you recognize that
there`s nothing going to happen in the Senate legislatively, just as a
descriptive matter of where we are politically.
At the same time, you know, the planet doesn`t care about filibuster.
I mean, the carbon is still going into the air, and the science is the
science, which produces panic, I think, in me, and just a feeling that
we`re, what do we do? And so, trying to think of ways that we can do
things that aren`t happening at the level of legislation.
Governor, I wanted to talk to you, because you are someone who
believes in the science, scientific consensus on global warming. You`re
part of a party that has turned away, I think it`s fair to say, the center
of gravity in the party has gone in reverse. I mean, it wasn`t
controversial, I think, within, among a lot of Republicans (ph) ten years
ago and it now is controversial.
Can you talk me through a little bit about why that has been the case?
I really want to understand this.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FMR. EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I wish I knew. You
know, because frankly, environmentalism is Republican. We started
basically the national parks. The first land set aside was Abraham Lincoln
who set aside Yosemite. But, fast forward, it was Richard Nixon who
established the Environmental Protection Agency and the clean air act, the
clean water act, safe drinking water act, all those things, and those were
added to by Bush 41 and Reagan, and it`s continued through it.
Why we suddenly have gotten to this point? It`s endemic of what`s
happened to us overall, which is every issue is looked at through the
partisan political prism rather than the policy prism. It`s not about how
do I solve the problem, it`s can I get another vote in caucus or is this
going to enhance my ability to get another percentage point, and this all
goes to government regulation, and big government getting into your
WHITMAN: And that`s where it started to fall apart for Republicans.
HAYES: Well, it`s interesting that something you just said I want to
dig in on, because you said it goes to partisanship, and part of what it
seems to me is, if liberals aren`t for something, then reflexively,
conservatives feel like, either skeptical of it, suspicious of it, or that
they must be against it.
And so, what`s happened with climate change and just the basic, you
know, vision of it was like, well, Al Gore made this movie err go this
WHITMAN: Well, it`s a little bit of that, and I will also say, I
think, the environmentalists bear a little responsibility here because
we`ve been too flip. Environmentalists have been too flip. First of all,
you say, humans cause climate change. Well, no. Come on. The earth has
been changing. The climate has been changing since the Earth was formed.
We had an ice age that went away. We didn`t around to mess it up.
So, to just say humans cause it gives skeptics a huge opening. And, of
course, we went through the long period of time where we called it global
warming. And then, when you have, as we did not this last winter but the
winter before, one of our coldest winter with no snow, again, it gives
skeptics a wide open.
And that`s what happening over time. It`s changed. So, by trying to
stake these absolutes and making it seem as if the world`s going to end
tomorrow because of it, we have, in fact, fed into that kind of thinking,
fed into those who don`t want to take any action because they see it as a
zero some game. You`re going to lose economic --
HAYES: Sam, you are skeptical of that?
SAM SEDER, MAJORITY.FM: I am a little skeptical about it, because I
think, you know, the idea that you`re going to deny the preponderance of
scientific information based upon you don`t like the attitude of the people
who are arguing on the other side, I mean what we`ve seen over the past 30
years is conservative, self-identified conservatives.
The most educated conservatives have actually lost their faith in
science. It`s almost fallen off a cliff if you look at a graph. And I
think it`s either beyond the fact of the sheer partisanship. I don`t think
it`s just the question of we`re going to oppose this because liberals are
in favor of it or in some way -- I think that there has been a concerted
effort by the conservative movement in this country to delegitimize science
and delegitimize the idea that society and government can band together to
actually do something.
WHITMAN: Well, I don`t totally disagree with you, but I will say that
part of that comes because we have made broad statements that sort of take
care of all the problems if that lumps everything together.
SEDER: This pre-dates the idea of Al Gore and inconvenient truth and
WHITMAN: It`s been coming for some time.
SEDER: Well -- but I think what we`re seeing is, you see the -- the
distrust in science actually pre-date a lot of the arguments that are
popularly made about global warming or global climate change. And so, it`s
very hard to attribute it to the flipness of the argument, because you
know, there`s a lot of arguments that are flip and people don`t just --
WHITMAN: That`s right.
SEDER: I don`t like it.
WHITMAN: That`s exacerbated it, but I will say it does go back. For
instance, the Environmental Protection Agency back in the 1990s had a
finding on a chemical that was used in apples that they said was a
potential carcinogen, so they banned it.
Nearly put the apple business in Washington State out of business
entirely, only to discover a year later that, in fact, it wasn`t a
potential carcinogen. So, again, the people who say --
SEDER: Government and people are aware of that.
WHITMAN: And that feeds the chatter in the background that starts to
lead to building up this skepticism.
HAYES: Well, it also seems to me that we`re eliding a huge factor in
this, which is that the most profitable corporations in the history of
human civilization on the planet ever have an incredible stake in
continuing to put carbon into the air.
In fact, the entire extraction industry of fossil fuels, BP made $26
billion in profit last year is dependent on the fact that the externality
of carbon in the air is not priced into their method, right, and is zero
sum. You mentioned -- I want to play this, because I thought this was so
Senator James Inhofe on Rachel`s program, and he was talking about how
he came to be a denier of the scientific consensus on global warming, and
listen to how he articulates his own rationale for coming to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE, (R) OKLAHOMA: I was actually on your side of this
issue when I was chairing that committee when I first heard about this. I
thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: "It must be true, until I found out what it cost," which is to
say he has reversed engineered his view of the science based on what it
will cost to solve it. I want to hear more about Republicans and climate
change, and also, what we can do to sort of move toward facts (INAUDIBLE).
I want to brainstorm my guests with a Republican weatherman and what
he has to say about global warming. We`ll find out right after this.
HAYES: All right. Right now, I want to bring in Paul Douglas, a
meteorologist from Minnesota and the founder of weather nation TV, a new
24-hour channel for weather. Paul, thanks for joining us.
PAUL DOUGLAS, CEO, BROADCAST WEATHER: GOOD to be with you, Chris.
HAYES: You look like you`re like in a space command center from some
dystopic sci-fi novel in which you have like your finger poised over the
button that`s going to nuke the world.
DOUGLAS: That`s right. Be careful what you say --
HAYES: Paul, you bring us some great stuff on this about the fact
that you`re a Republican, you`re a believer in small government, but you`re
also a meteorologist, and your ideological disposition doesn`t have any
effect on whether the physics, on what the Earth is doing climate wise.
How much traction have you gotten with fellow Republicans in trying to sort
of take that argument and talk to people about this?
DOUGLAS: I feel like I`m swimming upstream. But that said, we seem
to hear from the far right. I think the what I call the common sense
moderate middle has been largely silent, and I still think that most
Democrats, most Republicans are somewhere in the middle of that bell curve
and still respond to logic, still respond to reason, still respond to sound
science. And I hope at some point, we get back on track.
My fear is that it may take a couple of climate calamities. What
happened in Europe, 2003, with 30,000 people dead, is it going to take that
kind of weather disaster for Congress to finally get on track and start
coming up with solutions? I`m an optimist, but, Chris, I`m just responding
to the data. I was skeptical in the 1980s when James Hansen (ph) was
testifying before Congress with NASA.
But just looking at the data, we`ve had a steady accumulation of
coincidences, and I tell people, the climate is a puzzle. And the paradox
is, by the time the last piece of that puzzle falls into place, it`s going
to be too late to do anything about it. There`s enough evidence today for
people that have their eyes wide open and are truly looking at the data to
make informed decisions.
HAYES: You brought up calamity, because I am increasingly of the idea
that that`s some exogenous (ph) event is the only way to force the
political system to respond, unfortunately. And, one of the things that we
really puzzle with, and I want your advice as an actual verifiable expert,
in our editorial meetings, we really don`t want to commit the fallacy of
equating weather and climate, right?
Because there was a lot of that like when the winter was cold, Fox
News was like, you know, showing the fact, oh, it`s snowing in front of the
White House. Obviously, global warming isn`t happening. At the same time,
at a certain point, these data points do add up. I mean, the "Boston
Marathon," which has run this week was the second hottest on record.
The marathon organizers had to sent an e-mail out to the runners
basically saying don`t consider this a race. Just take it easy, because
you will be in danger if you -- and we had 15,000 record highs in March.
How should I talk about this in a way that is scientifically responsible?
DOUGLAS: I think what you can say is that we`ve entered weather --
I`d say it`s weather too dot (ph) over us. I mean, this is a new regime.
The weather on steroids analogy. You know, would Barry Bonds have been
able to hit 762 homeruns without the alleged steroid use? Maybe. But it
increased his base state.
It increased the possibility that every time he was up to bat, he
would hit one out of the ballpark, and so, it is now with the weather. You
know, we`re two degrees warmer. Northern latitude`s five, six, seven
degrees warmer. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, and that
increases the potential for extreme weather, floods, extremes -- dry areas
are getting drier.
Wet areas are getting wetter. It`s this new weather on steroids. I
tell people it`s like Mother Nature has a remote control or a DVR, and
she`s putting our seasons on fast forward and turning the volume of severe
weather up to an 11. It`s always been at about a five, but now, we`re at
And I`m seeing things on the weather map, Chris, that in my 35 years
tracking the weather, I never ever thought I would see. And at some point,
a sane, rational person looks at this drip, drip of evidence and says,
something has to be going on. It is not your grandfather`s weather
anymore. I`m an optimist.
We`ll figure out solutions, mostly market-based solutions, but
government needs to set the bar and then get the heck out of the way and
let the markets figure out what`s going to happen. You know what`s going
to happen, Chris? Smart companies are going to look at the liabilities
involved, and they`re going to look at the opportunities, and they`re
already on the right track.
DOUGLAS: In spite of government inaction, in spite of no clear vision
at the top, the smart companies, including insurance companies, the
military, the navy. Look at what the navy is doing to wean themselves off
oil. It`s already happening. And when my Republican colleagues and
friends, I hope I still have a few friends --
DOUGLAS: -- realize that there`s plenty on the table for the Chinese
and the Europeans and the Asians where there is no debate about climate
science, when they realize they`re leaving money behind, that`s when
they`re going to get with the program.
HAYES: Christine, you had something --
WHITMAN: Well, I was just going to say that one of the interesting
things, it was Ronald Reagan who made climate change a regular part of the
National Security Council discussions. I mean, he recognized that this was
something that was going to impact the way we deploy our navy, the way we
have to respond to international crises around the world that this was
something that we couldn`t afford to ignore.
And yet, we hear that it`s Republicans that hate climate, and I would
agree with what Paul was saying is that it`s the -- more extreme
conservative elements that there --
HAYES: But polling shows that it is also the majority of Republicans.
I mean, there`s been polling on this. I want to read this very quickly
because you brought up the Pentagon. This is a Pentagon report. This is
their quadrennial defense review, which is the way they do long-term
strategic planning in four-year chunks (ph).
They say, "Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play
a significant role in shaping the future security environment. While
climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant
of instability or conflict placing a burden to respond on civilian
institutions and militaries around the world."
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS.ORG: Well, I think you made the essential point
when you, you know, follow the money, you know? So, you have this energy
industry that is so invested in the whole issue, but I think, you know, I
don`t think we`re going to get the Republicans to change. I don`t think
the conservatives are going to change on this issue, and it is
fundamentally an economic issue on that side, but I think the other side
has not done a good job.
I think again and again, whether it`s environmentalists or liberals of
whatever stripe, have not fought back hard enough against the organized
right in this country. And so, we need more creative, more aggressive
efforts to make it clear to the public that climate change is a real
HAYES: I think I disagree with that, and part of the reason I wanted
to have Paul Douglas is on and you Christine is, I literally want to -- I
just want to hang out and brainstorm with you guys like what can we do?
What can I do on my liberal television program to make it --
HERBERT: Try and explain -- try and explain -- try and explain what
is happening to human beings and to the planet, because of the policies of
people who are doing things before the almighty dollar. Make that clear.
HAYES: Paul, I want you to weigh in, Victoria you as well, right
after we take this quick commercial break.
HAYES: All right. We begin ourselves about 30 minutes to solve the
HAYES: I think we`re making excellent progress. Pretty close. Just
around the bend. Victoria, you wanted to weigh in.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTTO, LATINO DECISIONS: Yes. One factor we
haven`t been discussing is the role of corporations and the public
relations blitz that they have put forward.
So, yes, there is your camp of avid deniers, but there`s also that
camp that is in the middle, but they`re barraged by BP, by clean coal, and
they keep seeing these advertisements, and they`re warm and they`re fuzzy
and they start to think, there`s no problem here. There`s no problem with
HAYES: Or, even more than that, I think one of the things is that it
transmits the message that actually we`re already diversifying our energy
sources, right? We`re already -- all sorts of green energy. The fact is
we`ve -- over the last decade, we`ve been more and more reliant on coal. I
mean, the coal --
SOTTO: Actually, that`s going down.
HAYES: Now, it`s going down. Right.
SOTTO: Below 50.
HAYES: Exactly. It`s no now below 50, and part of that actually is
because there`s a substitution effect of natural gas which is very cheap
and so -- in fact, I think this year, there are no new coal-fired power
plants that are supposed to come online this year, which is, you know, the
HERBERT: What is the counter to that, except for a program like this.
The public doesn`t hear much about climate change. They don`t hear much
about global warming. You have to be really aggressive in making your
That`s why we don`t have a draft now, because there were all this --
there was this rising up against the draft during Vietnam, and we don`t
have a draft anymore. There should be a rising up on climate change.
HAYES: That`s interesting --
HERBERT: And a number of other issues.
HAYES: I think that`s a good parallel, because what happened with the
draft was it forced everybody to pay attention to the war in a way that
they couldn`t outsource it. right? And the problem here is that we can
outsource this discussion. I want to show a graph of coverage on the
Sunday shows, a climate coverage on ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.
And that`s climate change covered on Sunday`s shows over the last
three years. And here`s John Kerry talking about how he can`t even gain
traction in conversations with his colleagues about the issue. You can`t
talk about climate now. People just turn off. It`s extraordinary. Only
for national security and jobs will they open their mind, and he said
that`s true even among Democrats.
Paul, how do you -- one of the problems we face from an editorial
perspective is finding news hooks, right, because it`s like, oh, there are
more parts per million of carbon in the air on Wednesday. That`s not a
headline. How do you sort of introduce -- inject it into the conversation?
DOUGLAS: You know, nobody wants to hear bad news, right? I
understand that, Chris, and sociologists, psychologists say that most of us
won`t accept a problem until there`s a viable solution.
DOUGLAS: I think that`s part of the problem here is that that we
don`t really have that blueprint for moving forward. I wish President
Obama, he`s kind of dancing around the edges a little bit, but there`s such
an opportunity for him or for Mr. Romney to seize the ball and say you know
what? We have carbon resources.
$10 trillion estimated of carbon still in the ground. Let`s mine it.
Let`s drill it, but, simultaneously, we`re going to ramp up these new
carbon neutral energy options. There`s -- as you said, there`s no silver
bullet. There is plenty of green buck shot, and we have the entrepreneurs.
We have the smart minds in this country, Chris, that can solve this
problem, and it`s already starting to happen, but we really need to ramp up
HAYES: I just want to push back briefly and say that that -- the
approach that you spelled out was precisely the approach they`ve taken in
the recovery act and subsequent bill, which is basically say, yes, we can
for the price on carbon because even though the Democrats pass it on the
house, it was filibustered by the Republicans in the Senate.
The Republican co-sponsor took his name off the bill and off
(INAUDIBLE). So, it`s not like -- I mean, that was on the agenda. I`ve
covered the Henry -- Waxman-Markey bill. They were trying to get cap and
What they`ve done in the absence of that is basically say, let`s
subsidize green energy since we can`t increase the cost of carbon, and the
response of that has been scandal mongering about Solyndra and solar power.
I mean, it seems like you can`t win.
WHITMAN: Well, one thing I would say from your initial question, how
do you present this? Again, I get back to, you`ve got to make it relevant
to people. There are times when I think we`ve lost the climate argument,
and we ought to just be talking about emissions.
HAYES: That`s interesting.
WHITMAN: We ought to be talking about the greenhouse gases and what
they mean. And if you can say that something that is not contagious as an
epidemic, and we have an epidemic of asthma in this country. It`s the
single largest cause of missed school days to over 10 million missed school
That`s very real to people. Every time I go into a school and I ask
kids, do they know anybody? Do they have asthma in their family? Do they
know -- three quarters of the hands go up. And, we don`t know what causes
asthma, but we do know that fine particulate matter in the air can
exacerbate, can trigger an attack or exacerbate an attack.
And I think we need to find more of those instances where it really
gets back to the individual to say, this matters to you. This stuff is
dirty. If nothing else, it`s dirty. OK. You don`t want to believe in
climate change --
HERBERT: I also think that people don`t understand that these
emissions they stay in the atmosphere for centuries, if not millennia. I
mean, you know, this is the exhaust from -- you know, whatever. It`s just
out there. It`s there for your kids, it`s there for your grandchildren,
SOTTO: But what do you care if you`re unemployed?
SOTTO: You know, I live in Texas. I live in Austin, and I`ve gone
them to talk Texas. It`s easy to sit here and talk about particles, but
when there are folks down there -- South Texas being the most economically
depressed region in the state, and suddenly, there is this shale gas, boom.
There is jobs.
You know, they don`t have enough people to fit the jobs, and the
Democrats in Texas are for the shale boom. So, it`s interesting where it`s
that trade-off and trying to find out public policy balance where the
livelihood of people`s day-to-day is balanced off with air quality.
SEDER: I still think that the argument, ultimately, because you can`t
every day talk about, well, we still have a problem with climate change.
SEDER: It`s the issue, I think, gets back to this notion of
government being able to take collective action. I mean, we can talk about
it being entrepreneurial, and we talk about it being relevant to the
individuals, but every time you try to make it viral to individuals, they
look outside their window and they see it snowing. Climate change is not a
So, I think there`s a more fundamental argument that needs to be waged
by -- by the Democrats or the liberals in this country that government and
society can band together to do things. I mean, I think to look back on
things like essentially repairing and some respects the ozone layer. I
mean, that`s just indicative of what can be done with broader policy.
HAYES: Yes. And one of the things that people always talk about is
sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is SO3, actually, I think it is, right?
That was causing acid rain, right? We solved the problem. Right, sulfur
dioxide. It was an amazing accomplishment. I mean, they --
WHITMAN: We can do more. We still need to do more, but don`t forget,
the states are acting. I mean, the good news, the states really are
laboratories of Democracy, and they are acting. I happen to believe that
the federal government ever would act on something like carbon on state
(ph) and say, fine, we`ll take that as our base.
But, right now, they`re pushing, and that`s actually a way to get
things to happen, because what they`re doing is creating a patchwork quilt
of regulations that makes it very difficult for companies to operate.
SOTTO: I am. Look at Pennsylvania and look at Ohio. They`re pushing
for moratoriums for fracking. They`re still not quite there yet, but
because they have felt the effects of earthquakes and dirty drinking water.
So, you know, yes, they`re looking out their window and seeing that it`s
snowing, but they`re feeling the earth move under them. So, I do think
we`re going to see it at a state-by-state level.
HAYES: Paul Douglas, meteorologist and founder of Weather Nation TV,
it`s so great to have you on. I want you to come back when you return from
the space shuttle that you`re in.
DOUGLAS: Chris, thank you for what you`re doing, just talking about
this subject, keeping it in the public eye. It`s a shame that it takes a
major disaster, I think, for people to talk about this, but this is
possibly the biggest challenge of our time, and I`m still optimistic we`re
going to figure this out.
HAYES: All right. Congress tackles a big environmental issues,
immunity for big oil, right after this.
HAYES: Yesterday marked two years to the day from when an explosion
ripped apart the deepwater horizon perceiving to spill an estimated 210
million gallons of BP`s oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP execs jumped up
and down from the sidelines claiming it was not their fault pushing blame
in the direction of Transocean, the drilling contractor that owned the rig,
and Halliburton, which did the cement work.
But BP had the ultimate authority, which is why BP has tried to lessen
the damage to its image with a $20 billion fund to pay the victims of the
oil spill. Analysis by financial advisers, Raymond James (ph), puts the
total cost to BP at $63 billion by the time this whole thing is done. On
Wednesday, BP presented a judge with a tentative $8 billion settlement for
roughly 100,000 fishermen, hotel owners, and other plaintiffs.
The significant thing here isn`t the fact that this could turn out to
be the largest class action settlement ever, but that this might be the
last time big oil will ever have to pay for its mistakes, because there was
a hearing Thursday on the domestic fuels protection act, a bipartisan bill
that would effectively protect all oil companies, foreign and domestic,
from any liability for deadly accidents resulting from fuel production for
It`s purpose as it says, quote, "To provide liability protection for
claims based on the design, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, introduction
to commerce, or use of certain fuels and fuel additives and for other
purposes." Nice and broad there.
This is where we are two years after the oil spill, which the White
House called the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history
with BP back to drilling at 6,000 feet in the gulf, and the people in the
gulf tired of suffering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the outside don`t help us, we`re going to
die. We need their voices to help strengthen ours. So, if they don`t help
us, we`re going to die. And BP is going to sit and watch us die.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) politicians make me
sick. I`ve been to D.C., all dressed up, button down slacks. Then you
catch them in public, oh, I`m a publicly embarrass this person and make
them make a promise of Sen. Mary Landrieu, I`m going to make sure
everything`s all right.
Governor Jindal stood there in my five-year-old`s face, I`m going to
make sure everything`s OK, he said. And -- they`re watching my baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We invited a representative from BP to join us on the show
today, but they declined. I think one of the things that`s striking to me
about the two-year anniversary, and sometimes, -- I never like to do stuff
on anniversaries, because it feels like an artificial news pack, but I
wanted to do this today because if you go back and you look at the footage,
this was all we talked about for about 50 days.
I mean, we all watched that thing gush. It was the front page every
day. Completely -- and then it`s like -- ooh.
HAYES: And never heard from again, like, oh, well, that`s done. Back
to drilling. And, you know, there`s the question of, have the people
gotten restitution? And has there been accountability? And also, what are
we doing to avoid the next possible disaster from drilling at the depth for
drilling, and it seems to me from the reading I`ve been doing, the folks
I`ve been talking to the gulf, that there`s not been a lot done to
ameliorate the possibility of the future --
SEDER: Actually, I spoke to one of the attorneys on the plain (ph)
and steering committee of this, and the settlement is pretty big.
SEDER: And the $8 billion figure is actually the figure that BP is
putting out there as a way of reassuring their investors, their
shareholders. But, the problem is, is that even if it`s -- regardless of
how many times a billion it is, it doesn`t go anywhere near enough to
change the incentive structure or the decisions and whole -- the hundreds
of decisions to cut corners essentially to save money that went into
creating this disaster.
And so, when you start to see legislation that`s actually going to
sort of decrease that liability, we have a real problem in this country,
because there doesn`t seem to be any way to change the behavior of these
corporations, because we see regulatory bodies being corrupted in some
respects, and we see an attempt now to keep civil response capped
HAYES: And one of the things we`re seeing now that I find really
frustrating and strange about this situation is, there`s a lot of science
being conducted about the effects, but all that science is essentially
under lock a key because of the fact of just active litigation. And so,
it`s very hard to get public information about what`s going on.
SEDER: That`s why they settled.
HAYES: Right. Yes.
SEDER: That`s why they settled, because we can hear stories about
shrimp without eye sockets which we`re hearing a lot of now, but all that
stuff that`s going to be -- that could have come out in a trial would have
been very problematic.
HAYES: We have a journalist who wrote a great investigative piece
about the effects two years later. She`s going to join us from New Orleans
right after this break.
HAYES: Levon Helm who we lost this week here on this Saturday
morning. I want to bring in Antonia Juhasz who is joining us from New
Orleans. She`s the author of the book, "Black Tide: The Devastating Impact
of the Gulf oil spill." Antonia, welcome.
ANTONIA JUHASZ, AUTHOR, "BLACK TIDE": Thanks for having me. Good
HAYES: Good morning. You wrote a great investigative piece in the
nation this week about what the gulf is like two years later. For people
that haven`t been paying attention to the story, they are now coming back
to it, and you`ve been spending the last few years reporting on it. What
has been overlooked? What should they know? What do people feel like in
the gulf about the effects of this had been?
JUHASZ: The most important thing is that this is an ongoing tragedy.
Let`s remember that it began with the death of 11 men on the Deepwater
Horizon. That was the beginning what unleashed what, if it wasn`t for
Saddam Hussein intentionally releasing oil in 1991 to attack U.S. soldiers
would be hands down the largest oil disaster without comparison in the
history of the world.
It impacted five states, 21 million people, an enormous body of water,
and enormously ecologically rich and diverse body of water, and the
consequences began on April 28, 2010 and continue aggressively today. We
can expect them to continue aggressively into the future.
And, what is being felt, I think, some of the greatest problems that
are being felt are basically on every light form that is dependent on that
water. So, we`ve seen enormous harm to the fish species and sea life that
try to live in the gulf. We`ve seen entire species where there is concern
that they won`t come back.
Enormous declines in the availability and production of shrimp, of
clamps, of oysters, of all the seafood, which of course, impacts fisherers.
They`re deeply concerned two years out now, not only have they separate two
years of in some places no crops, and in other places, seriously declined
crops that there isn`t reproductive capacity of those species.
And that`s similar to the Exxon Valdez in Alaska where 20 years later,
the heiring population has not recovered. That we`re going to continue to
see that type of impact on the species on which an entire gulf economy is
based. Now, that -- sorry.
HAYES: No, that was great. I just want to -- when I was doing
research for this, I was not quite aware of how long the cascade of effects
in the Exxon Valdez spill -- how long that chain was? And also, the degree
to which affects first started surfacing years and years after the spill.
So, certain ecological effects happened only four years afterwards
where it look -- it didn`t look initially like there was going to be a
problem with the given species, and then, four years later, there was.
Well, you know, the oil -- let`s remember that oil isn`t toxin. It
contains volatile organic compounds. It contains a group of chemicals that
are called PAHS that are in duration and amount of exposure deadly to life
forms, deadly to humans, deadly to sea life, deadly to plant life.
And when you add to that the two million gallons of chemical Corexit,
the dispersant that were applied -- was applied which is also made of
toxins, you have what, Dr. James Diaz, who`s one of the many doctors I
interviewed for my piece told me, described as a toxic gumbo of chemicals
to which the people and the sea life of the gulf has been exposed.
And so, that oil did not magically disappear. It`s still on the
bottom of the gulf. It`s still in the water. It still washes up on
beaches. I was just on Grand Isle yesterday in Louisiana and picked up tar
balls, picked up oil. You can scoop it up on beaches every day, and that
toxic mixture is still impacting the sea life that is supposed to be living
on the bottom of the ocean, supposed to be living in the ocean.
If you kill out parts down the line or fill them with toxins, the next
species that eats the toxic sea life gets impacted by it, and that includes
us. So, one of the foci (ph) of my story this week was about the human
HAYES: Antonia, I want to hear about that, because you go into detail
on that. I want to talk about the response of the government and BP right
after we take a quick break.
HAYES: Back talking about the two-year anniversary of the Transocean
spill. And, Christine, I want to talk to you about something, because one
of the things that happens in the wake of disaster is government says
either things are OK or things are not OK, right?
And this is something that I`ve spent a lot of time thinking about
writing a book, and right now, when you direct questions to BP about, say,
the safety of the seafood, they say, don`t trust us. Trust the government.
The government is checking it if this is OK. When you were at the EPA, you
know, you had, you guys lived through 9/11.
There was the pronouncements afterwards that came from the EPA. The
air was safe to breathe. It, later, turned out not to be safe to breath or
not as safe as had been claimed. And I wonder the degree to which people
feel like we can trust those pronouncements, that they`re made in good
faith and they`re not being corrupted by the need to say that things are
OK, because that`s what`s politically expedient?
WHITMAN: Well, I can`t speak to what`s happening in the gulf, but I
can tell you on air quality. The air quality in Lower Manhattan in general
was safe to breathe, and that was based on scientific fact. On the pile,
entirely different. No, it was not, needed respirators. And, that`s where
government gets into a problem in trying to deliver a bifurcated message
And, I think it did seriously undermine people`s confidence in
government, because it`s all been lumped together and said, oh, you said
the air was safe to breathe and people are dying. People who have rescued
who were on the pile, I believe, absolutely are having health effects from
having breathed that air.
But we always told them, EPA told them every day in meetings and the
rest of it that they should wear respirators.
HAYES: And there`s a distinction --
WHITMAN: There`s a distinction, which is hard to make. Now, I don`t
know the gulf. I haven`t been part of EPA`s testing of the waters and
testing of the food supply. But you do have to (INAUDIBLE) impact, too.
You have to look over time and what it does to the sea life and the ecology
over time and then how that affects humans.
HAYES: And Antonia, what I want to ask you is --
WHITMAN: But there is pressure. There`s no question. I mean, you
look at that piece, Antonia`s piece, and I have to think it`s important,
and we need to know what she`s saying, and it needs to be out there, and I
know that there are a lot of those -- I would bet that there are some of
those in the gulf who are torn.
Is this a good thing or is it scaring people away so they`ll buy even
less shrimp and they won`t come visit?
WHITMAN: That`s their day-to-day economy.
HAYES: Yes. And that is also political pressure, obviously, locally
to say things are good, right, because you don`t want -- what you don`t
want to do is wave the flag and say, this is the most devastated part of
WHITMAN: Exactly. Don`t come.
HAYES: Antonia, will you stick around, because I didn`t get you here,
but I want you to talk about what you found on there, and also, I want you
to talk about if there is this kind of trust gap that`s opened up down in
the gulf between what the pronouncements are, whether they`re coming from
the government or from BP and what people are seeing on the ground.
More on that right after we take this break.
HAYES: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris Hayes here with
Victoria DeFrancesco Sotto from Latino Decisions, Sam Seder from
Majority.FM. We`re now joined by Josh Borrow, a contributor of Forbes.com,
and we have Bob Herbert from the Demo think tank. I want to thank in
absentia, Christine Todd Whitman, who -- we were up against the heartbreak
and so I had to get out, so I did not get to thank her in person for
And we have Antonia Juhasz on the line from New Orleans. Antonia has
written a book about the oil spill and its effect and wrote a cover
investigative piece for "The Nation" this week.
Antonia, we were just talking about trust and whether you can trust
pronouncements. I was referring to the infamous proclamation about the air
being safe after 9/11 when Christine Todd Whitman was head of the EPA.
Federal judge later found that characterization misleading.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: And we have Antonia Juhasz on the line from New
Orleans. Antonia has written a book about the oil spill and its affects,
and wrote a cover investigative piece for "The Nation" this week.
Antonio, we were just talking about trust, and whether you can trust
the pronouncements. I was referring to the infamous proclamation about the
air being safe after 9/11 when Christine Todd Whitman was head of the EPA.
A federal judge later found that characterization misleading.
Do people -- is there a gap between what the government, or what BP
is saying and what people are experiencing?
ANTONIA JUHASZ, AUTHOR, "BLACK TIDE": Yes, absolutely. I just want
to say in response to Secretary Whitman`s last statement, what`s very
important to understand about the Gulf of Mexico right now and this oil
spill is that it covers five beautiful states.
On any given day, there`s a beautiful beach in the Gulf of Mexico,
and on any given day there`s an oil beach. On any given day, there are
healthy people. And on any given day, there are hundreds of thousands of
And if we`re going to do anything about the latter, harmful ongoing
impacts, we have to acknowledge their existence in the same we`ve
acknowledged there`s a healthy part of the gulf that we`re trying to move
JUHASZ: That both are happening simultaneously and the problem with
the information that`s been coming out from the federal government and from
BP is that it`s tried to paint just one picture, and that`s the rosy
picture, and focus in on that, which means we`re ignoring these continued
harmful impacts so that the quintessential moment in the BP gulf oil spill
was on August 15th when the Obama administration, several members of it,
got on television and announced that the vast majority of the oil is gone.
The scientists who wrote the report that they were referring to
immediately started calling reporters and getting on the news saying,
that`s not what we found. What we found was the opposite, that the
majority of the oil is still there. And that was the critical, one of the
critical breaking points.
When we look, for example, at seafood safety in the Gulf, the Federal
Drug Administration decided that Gulf seafood is safe. The reality is that
that study was based on a 176-pound man who eats the average diet of an
American -- across the United States.
In the Gulf Coast -- well, for one thing around the whole world,
around the whole country, we have women and we have children who have
different weights, generally than men, which means that their exposure to
the chemicals in the seafood affects them more harmfully. We have women
who are pregnant, and could be pregnant, who pass on those toxins to their
children. But in the Gulf Coast in particular, they eat a lot more
JUHASZ: If you`ve of been to Louisiana you know this.
HAYES: Oh, yes.
JUHASZ: And there also are subsistence eaters, who that -- they eat
what they catch. Tor for the people of the Gulf Coast, seafood is
something they need to worry about, even if it isn`t as much a concern for
the men on the show, for example.
HAYES: I`ll keep that in mind. Cut down on my gulf shrimp
consumption, but -- which, of course, the last thing the people in the Gulf
want to hear.
But you just said -- a number of -- hundreds of thousands of people
are sick. That sounds like a big number and I want you to just back up
that citation. How do we know how many are sick? How can we attribute the
causes to the spill? How -- how can we responsibly conclude what the cause
and effect is?
JUHASZ: So, one of the things that`s been very important about this
oil spill is that it comes in the wake of the Valdez. And one of the great
victories of the Valdez was that under the Bush, Sr. administration, the
Congress acted, and we got a great piece of legislation called the Oil
Pollution Act. And the response to this disaster, significantly larger
disaster, we`ve not had a single piece of legislation passed.
JUHASZ: But the good news is, we have the Oil Pollution Act, which
required a lot of immediate, on the ground responses. It also required a
lot of infrastructure to be put into place, and a legal structure in which
lawyers could start responding to the disaster.
And the result of all of that is that right now, we have a medical
settlement on the table which is the result of a lot of study, a lot of
activism by Gulf residents which looks at a minimum about 200,000 people
that are basically automatically considered to be part of this group. And
the reason why they`re automatically considered is because we know that
based on where they live and also based on cleanup workers, about 140,000
of whom should be in this group but only 90,000 are, the cleanup workers
and those who live on the coast were constantly exposed to this enormous
amount of oil and chemicals and they were not being provided with adequate
health care, with adequate protection.
I cite a Government Accountability Project study in my article that
started to look at whistle-blowers and what they`re reporting from their
cleanup exposure, and what we`re seeing are the expected results of
exposures to the chemicals in oil and Corexit. And those are as minimal as
skin rashes, although those that have them wouldn`t call them minimal.
They`re called BP rash. They are the BP moment, which is the memory loss
that people are suffering because the chemicals are attracted to the brain,
which is a nice fatty source for them to suck into.
There are extreme impacts that are already being reported, dementia
is one that I report in my article. But everything from coughs, constant
bronchial problems, bleeding from ears, nose, the rectum, these symptoms
are also indicative of most likely the longer-term expected chronic
impacts, cancers, neurological disorders, birth defects. These are the
expected outcomes of this type of exposure, and people in the Gulf are
experiencing them, and I honestly think based on my studies that 200,000
figure is probably small.
Again, remember, 21 million people live on the Gulf Coast. They were
exposed to an unprecedented environmental disaster. They`re going to
suffer the human consequences.
HAYES: Antonia, this -- one of the things that gets confusing about
this, is there`s a bunch of parallel processes in place.
There are civil suits, class action suits that have been consolidated
based on different kinds of classes. Health effects has been disaggregated
from economic effects.
There`s the natural resources, damage assessment, which is happening
under the Oil Spill Act that you mentioned. That`s coming up with a tally.
There`s the money that BP has put up front.
And then, of course, also fines under the Clean Water Act.
So there`s a bunch of different processes that are happening, and all
of those are going to continue to play out and we should keep checking back
in so we don`t just forget about the Gulf.
Antonia Juhasz, author of the book, "Black Tide: The Devastating
Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill" -- thanks so much for your time this morning,
really, really important reporting. Thank you.
JUHASZ: Thank you for having me.
HAYES: President Obama says he wasn`t born with a silver spoon in
his mouth. Mitt Romney gets offended. We`ll explain why, right after
HAYES: President Obama stirred, I guess, controversy this week with
what many perceived as sly jab at Mitt Romney`s privileged upbringing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody gave me an
education. I wasn`t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle
wasn`t. But somebody gave us a chance. Just like these folks up here are
looking for a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Speaking in front of a job training center, Romney then took
umbrage with the remark in an interview on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not going to apologize
for my dad`s success, but I know the president likes to attack fellow
Americans. He`s always looking for a scapegoat, particularly those that
have been successful like my dad and I`m not going to rise to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Romney has consistently mythologized the financial and
political success of his father, George Romney, as a sort of Horatio Alger
story. Indeed, Romney`s own fortune is the ethos of the American dream,
perhaps the ideal ending to his father`s story. If you work hard and pull
yourself up by the bootstraps, you`ll be able to pass that on to your
Piece by piece, however, Republicans have worked to systemically
dismantle the very programs that would give low-income Americans the chance
to escape entrenched generational poverty and achieve the kind of success
Romney extols in his father`s story.
This week, that effort gave us a Republican proposal to slash
billions from various components of the social safety net, including the
federal SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps. Republicans on the
House Agriculture Committee, inspired by Representative Paul Ryan`s budget
approved a proposed farm bill that would cut food stamps, some supplemental
nutritional systems program by more than $30 billion over the next 10
years. And that`s pennies compared to the cuts proposed under Ryan`s
budget plan which would total more than $130 billion over 10 years.
I -- digging into the data on food stamps` SNAP, I feel bad, because
people know it as food stamps, but they`re trying to get away from the term
food stamp. So, let`s just like stipulate here and we`ll call it SNAP from
hereon out. OK. Stipulated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
HAYES: No? You like food stamps.
The data on this is shocking, I mean, just in terms of the rise of
the program. Now, about 45 million Americans, because largely because of
the devastating consequences of the great recession. Eighty-fived percent
of those people have a gross income below the federal poverty line which is
about $22,000 for a family of four.
So, we are talking about -- and about half of them, I believe, are
employed, right? This has become a way to essentially supplement the
insufficient wages of people that are the working poor, and it`s also been
one of the most effective ways of mitigating poverty here in the great
recession. This is a chart that shows how it virtually erased the rise in
extreme poverty among children during the recession. Check this out.
The top line -- do we have this? Maybe not. There it is. OK.
The top line, what the growth, the number of extremely poor families
would have been without food stamps and the bottom what it was with food
stamps. The gap between the two is, poverty mitigation brought to you by
food stamps and now, they`re going after food stamps.
Josh, defend your voice.
JOSH BARRO, BLOGS.FORBES.COM: I disagree with this choice. I think
that, you know-- I think we need to have a broad rethinking of the way that
we do income support and social programs in the U.S. because we have this
BARRO: You have SNAP, and then you have Section 8, and then you have
the earned income tax credit, for all of these. And one thing I really
worry about with these programs is the issue of poverty traps, where
basically you have who are working poor, maybe, you know, a family with an
income around $25,000, as they try to work harder and earn money, they face
a marginal tax rate that can approach 100 percent because they pay taxes on
that income and they lose benefits as they get welfare.
BARRO: And so --
HAYES: And a critical factor. And we talked about it last week when
we`re having this discussion that when you -- one of the days that ways
that TANF was reform, you know, welfare reform, was to get rid of these
cliffs effects, right? You don`t want it to be ever the case.
But if someone gets a raise or gets a better job, the actual gross
amount of income they`re taking into their family, net amount of income
they`re taking in in their family reduces. But when you combine all the
federal programs together, you do have these cliff effects.
BARRO: Right. And you have state programs on top of that. And this
is also going to become a bigger problem as the health care law comes into
effect, assuming that it does, because this is another big means test of
entitlement program. The people lose the benefit of this as they gain
income. So, I think that needs to be addressed.
But I don`t think that it -- I think that food stamps are a
relatively good welfare program within the universal programs that we have.
I think they are an effective means of poverty mitigation. So, I don`t
think it makes sense to go after that in the budget.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, LATINO DECISIONS: Yes. And SNAP isn`t
just about providing dollars for food. It`s also trying to address issues
such as obesity. It`s food and security.
OK. So, you have $2 and you go buy a bag of chips and grape soda.
What they`re trying to do through SNAP, they have a pilot program where
they are starting with farmer`s markets to accept SNAP --
HAYES: They use their card.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: -- so they can go to select farmer`s markets. So,
it`s also trying to give people the healthier foods. So, not only are they
cutting the numbers, but they`re cutting the types of nutritional
supplements that are available, especially children. About half of the
recipients are children.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS.ORG: What we`re talking about here are blatantly
cruel proposals. One in five American children is poor. One in three
African-American children is poor.
It would be even more if we didn`t have the food stamp programs.
Those numbers would be even higher. But what you`re talking about is, as
poverty is increasing in the United States, at the same time the rich are
getting richer, we`re talking about going in and taking food off of the
table of poor children? What is the matter with us?
SAM SEDER, MAJORITY.FM: And the point that I make, you mentioned
this at the top of the segment, but it can`t be stated enough, that the
program hasn`t grown.
SEDER: The participants have grown, because that many people have
dropped further down on the income spectrum. And so that`s really the
problem, because we see this demagogue over and over again that this
program`s out of control. It keeps growing, keeps growing, as if more
people are being admitted into it because the requirements are being
loosened. But in fact, it`s a function of there`s something fundamentally
wrong with our economy.
HAYES: Well, and the CBO and Paul Ryan talks about the growth of the
program, CBO projects that as a share of GDP, it will be back to 1995
levels in about six years, right? As this sort of we get through the worst
effects of the Great Recession. People get back into the labor market.
But there`s a broader issue here I think about the way we think about
income support for people at the bottom of the social hierarchy and
economic pyramid, which is we have moved towards programs like the earned
income tax credit, the way that TANF now works and SNAP, which are ways to
essentially subsidize the working poor so that they can have essentially
enough to just barely get by while working.
And it strikes me as an -- that that`s a sort of dystopic vision of
the future in which people have -- there`s a huge class of people who are
making not enough money to actually subsist on. The only thing that gets
them actually to subsistent level is a government subsidy that makes --
HERBERT: And not only that, we`re subsidizing the corporations who
pay them. It`s a wage subsidy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
HERBERT: So, you know, the corporations would have to pay more
together. We should be raising the minimum wage and we should be insisting
that Americans who work for a living get paid a decent wage for that work.
BARRO: I don`t know what else you`re supposed to do about growing
inequality. I mean, the reason you have wage inequality is you have
different productivity levels and you have -- you have growing gaps of
inequality because the economy is changing in ways such as that the returns
to labor are just getting bigger and bigger for people at the top.
HAYES: It`s a much, much more complicated story.
BARRO: This is a big part of the story.
HAYES: Part of the story.
BARRO: And one of the key things the government can do to alleviate
inequality in that situation is transfer --
BARRO: So yes, this is a concern. Actually concerned more often
voiced on right that you have a growing class of people who are living --
are living and requiring government subsidies in order to be able to
support themselves at a level that is deemed by society to be at such level
HERBERT: A lot of things to do about inequality, though, you can
have a more progressive income tax. Make access to higher education more
affordable. I mean, there are just endless numbers of things that you can
do about inequality.
HAYES: Just in terms of to reaffirm this point about inequality,
this is the income gains during the recovery, in the first year of the
recovery, we should say. Not the entire recovery. We have data from the
Ninety-three percent of all the income gains in the first year in
recovery went to the top --
HERBERT: Looks like Pac-man.
HERBERT: That is so sad. Ninety-three percent of all income gains
go to the top 1 percent? That should be hammered home to Americans. I
mean, pound, pound, pound.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: And during the recession, what we saw with our
minority communities was that within the African-American community,
plummeted 55 percent, Latinos 56 percent. And then within those
communities, wealth is becoming more skewed. So, this is a problem that
HERBERT: There`s basically no wealth in the African-American
community. I think the median is something like $2,200. If you have
$2,200 and your car breaks down, your -- or something happens to the roof
of your home, your wealth is gone.
HAYES: Actually, one of the proposed changes to SNAP from the
Republicans is to put in an acid test, so that if you have any money in the
bank, or a certain amount of money in the bank, you can`t receive it.
But I want to talk how this affects social mobility, right after we
take this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: My dad, as you know, born in Mexico, poor, didn`t get a
college degree, became head of a car company. I could have stayed in
Detroit like him and gotten pulled up in a car company. I went off on my
own. I didn`t inherent money from my parents. What I have, I earned. I
worked hard, the American way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s Mitt Romney in a public primary debate in Detroit sort
of asserting his own, kind of, if not rags to riches sort of median riches
to ultra riches story. And I think it`s very interesting the way that he
has to -- and one of the conventions of running for president, is to
construct for yourself some kind of meritocratic success story, even when
it flies in the face of all the facts, right?
So, George H.W. Bush talked about how he left behind Connecticut and
struck out his own Texas oil fields, even though he was from -- you know,
the son of a senator and four five generations of prominent members of
society and wealth folks.
George W. Bush had this whole kind of conversion story, about like,
you know, getting rid of his drinking ways and his loose youth and turning
his life around.
And Mitt Romney is in the midst of kind of constructing even though
the fact that his father was a governor, had a major car company,
constructing for himself this meritocratic story supplemented by Ann Romney
describing their early years together as students at BYU. "We moved into a
$65 a month basement apartment with a cement floor and live there two years
as students with no income. It was tiny.
And I didn`t have money to carpet the floor. But you can get
remnants, samples. I glued them together, all different colors. It looked
awful, but it was carpeting. We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of
us had a job because Mitt had enough of investment from stock that we could
sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt`s father."
HAYES: So even -- even in constructing her sort of like hardscrabble
days in BYU student housing, which is stapling -- they`re paying for
stapling by selling the dad`s income. And to me what this gets at is, this
perverse way that we think about the American dream and mobility, which is
that I think Mitt Romney really does believe that his wealth is entirely
independent of the privilege he inherited from the father. I think he
really believes that.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: I love how he phrased it in terms of my father was
poor from Mexico. So, he`s almost latching on to this immigrant story.
HAYES: Yes, yes.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: And using this as the American dream where nothing
could be farther from the truth. His father ended up in Mexico because he
was fleeing from the United States because of polygamy.
HAYES: Yes. Well, I would say fleeing religious persecution. But -
BARRO: Also, I guess my question is how should Mitt Romney talk
about his successful career? I mean, you say he constructed a meritocratic
story. He does have a meritorious business career. He`s a much more
successful business person than his father was, and while he obviously came
in with a lot of advantages, he`s also -- he`s a smart guy who worked hard
and had a lot of success.
SEDER: Well, that`s exactly it. I mean, that`s what`s so strange
about it is because he could say that.
HERBERT: I agree.
SEDER: I started off with a lot of advantages. I didn`t have to pay
for college. I didn`t have student debt that got through. I had an
investment that I dipped in to pay for.
I am very lucky and I feel responsible enough. And I appreciate the
advantage I had and I want to help those who don`t have that advantage.
But he cannot admit that. That`s what`s so stunning about this, is
that I don`t think there`s anything problematic about having a wealthy
person who run for office. But the fact that you do not appreciate the
opportunities you had as your father being a governor, and CEO of a major
car corporation, and where that puts you at the beginning of the race.
HAYES: This is the famous line right on George W. Bush -- born on
third base, you hit a triple.
You asked how he can`t talk about it. I will show you one way he can
talk about it.
This is Mitt Romney in 1994 dug up by a news segment producer, Sal
Gentilli (ph). Hat tip, Sal -- who found this from Romney in 1994.
Here`s him talking about his success in, I think, a remarkably frank
and honest way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I believe we should maintain America as an opportunity
society led by free people and free enterprises. It is opportunity and
freedom which has driven our economy to be the most powerful in the world
and created jobs for people across this --
I have spent my life not just in earning money. I was lucky about
four years ago to win the lottery, almost literally. I got involved in a
business that became more successful than anything I imagined. But that
isn`t how we grew up. That isn`t how we started living.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That -- obviously, the first bite wasn`t right. The second
one was. But that`s a remarkable thing to say. I almost literally won the
lottery. I got into this business.
And there`s no question, all accounts of Mitt Romney as a private
equity baron, say that he was very good at what he did. I mean, that is
almost universally the case. In terms of pursuing profit for his
investors, and for himself and for his partners, he was very good at what
But -- boy, you`re grimacing. But he was.
SEDER: No, no.
HAYES: I mean, I`m saying within the confines of what it was.
SEDER: He won the lottery. And you don`t hear a lot of people on a
winning team criticizing other players, but be that as it may.
HAYES: Right. But that is what I thought was a remarkably frank way
of talking about it. And one of the things we can`t have this discussion
about is, we have to keep reaffirming the idea that success is just 100
percent a product of determination, grit, talent, all of these things as
opposed to being honest about the amount of both contingency and privilege
that amount to being able to be Mitt Romney with a quarter million dollars
in the bank and running for president.
HERBERT: And the weird thing is that the American electorate has
voted for wealthy, privileged individuals again and again for president.
They haven`t held it against them. You know, you go back to FDR, and I`m
sure further back than that. But the Kennedys, you know --
HAYES: Right, I mean, that`s the thing --
HERBERT: The country does not have a problem with that.
SEDER: Across the spectrum or is this something that we see on the
right? Because they must maintain this notion of society being
meritocratic. And my sense is that this is something that a guy like Mitt
Romney feels a lot more pressure to sort of put out there than you would
see across the aisle.
HAYES: I think it is something that is a shared vision of both left
and right, but I think it`s more emphasis on the right. But I think the
idea of the American Dream as -- I mean, here`s a sort of interesting
This is America`s economic mobility relative to other places, right?
We think of America as the place that is the most mobile, right? De
Tocqueville said, you know, in democracy in America, the Americans have no
word for peasant because that class is unknown there.
And this is -- if you -- the economic mobility relative to other
countries. Denmark, three times as mobile. This is intergenerational
mobility, right, father to son. Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden,
Germany -- all mobile places in the U.S. The only place less as mobile is
the class-bound world of the U.K., from which we broke off, right, partly
to slow off the shackles of their aristocratic domination.
If you ask people about the American dream, and this is polling on:
do you think the American dream is alive and well, had you achieved it or
will you achieve it? Seventy percent say, yes, right? So, there`s this
amazing -- there`s this amazing sort of disconnect between what people
think about how much mobility this country has and what the actual facts of
the matter are. I think our political culture has a way of reinforcing it.
BARRO: And there`s value in this belief, even regardless of its
BARRO: When you look at international survey data, where you asked
people in different countries about how much control they feel about their
HAYES: It`s very interesting poll.
BARRO: Believing that you have more control over your own fate leads
to better economic outcomes because it causes people to work harder. So, I
think that, you know, we don`t -- while I think it`s important to recognize
HAYES: You`re saying this is a useful delusion for the masses is
what you`re saying?
BARRO: Well, this isn`t a statement that`s either true or false.
HAYES: Right. Sure. Of course.
BARRO: There is a degree of social mobility and people believing
that they have opportunity for social mobility has value -- so does
actually having the opportunity for social mobility. But I don`t think we
want to undermine --
HAYES: I want you to respond. Let`s take a quick break, and talk
more about this after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We are in upwardly mobile society
with a lot of income movement between income groups. Telling Americans
that they are stuck in their current station in life, that they are victims
of circumstances beyond their control, and that the government`s role is to
help them cope with it, that is not who we are. That`s not what we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Paul Ryan giving a speech about inequality and social
mobility, in which I think he was affirming the sort of core Republican
beliefs -- certainly, conservative belief -- about individual achievement
and merit in the face of whatever obstacles, equal opportunity, whatever.
But also I think a broadly shared American ethos. I mean, I do think
it sort of does cross both parties the way we think about what the American
dream is. And yet we have this tension in which the facts and the dream
are quite disparate and then they get played out through the morality play
of our presidential elections in which you have the somewhat absurd
situation of Mitt Romney trying to fashion for himself a carpet stapling
HERBERT: There was kind of a narrow period in our history when the
American dream was much easier to realize, and those were the early post-
World War II decades. So, now, I mean, I agree there`s a degree of social
mobility in the society, obviously, but it is not nearly enough.
And it is very, very difficult now, if you`re a poor person -- forget
about Horatio Alger becoming rich -- it`s very difficult if you grow up
poor to make it into the middle class nowadays.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: And we`re also not looking at the institutional
barriers. So the American dream supposes that you didn`t live under Jim
Crowism, or didn`t go to segregated schools. So it`s not just wealth.
It`s income. And wealth is inherited.
While we may be on the same playing field in terms of having the same
paycheck, but my great-great grandfather gave my grandfather money for his
house it was passed down along the way. We lose sights of that when we`re
just looking at the president.
HERBERT: That`s a really good point. I mean, in terms of wealth,
forget about it.
HAYES: Right. Disparities in wealth are much greater --
HAYES: -- and that`s because wealth accumulates, it`s a stock,
economists say, not a flow, which is what income is, you know?
Josh, you want to respond.
BARRO: I think people overstate how idyllic the `50s were in terms
of equality. The `50s were a great time to be a lower, medium-skilled
white man, partly because of barriers in the labor market. It was the
period in U.S. history when we have the tightest immigration policies, so
there wasn`t a lot of competition for jobs from immigrants, women were
effectively excluded from many sectors in the economy, and so were African
BARRO: So, I think that -- nobody`s proposing that we should go back
to that structure, but it was the sort of unusual confluence of policies
that were benefiting this one group and that`s gone away, creating lots of
advantages otherwise in society.
HERBERT: I`d push back on that a little bit.
HAYES: I want to push back.
HAYES: We`ll take another break. I want to hear your response.
We`ll be right back.
HAYES: All right. Josh Barro just referenced the slightly anomalous
period in American -- the history of American political economy, which is
after World War II.
Bob Herbert --
HERBERT: Well, obviously, in the `50s, it was a tough time for
blacks. Women did not have a great deal in the way of opportunities
either. But in those early post-war decades, `50s, `60s, and into the
`70s, it was tremendous movement up, but in many groups including African-
Americans and included women. But I think the most important thing is that
there was a movement in the right direction. Progress was being made.
Whereas now, where a lot of people are better certainly than they
were back in the `50s, but we`re going backwards. And I think that`s the
big thing to keep our eyes on.
HAYES: And if you look at median wage, they were about where they
HERBERT: In the `70s.
HAYES: Yes. Well, it depends on sort what measure you use,
households or individual.
HAYES: For household, it`s around 1996. For individuals, that`s
back in the `70s, that`s partly due to the fact that there`s a substitution
effect, as more, two-income earner households.
But this question of mobility I think, Josh, because to me, these two
conversations about food stamps and mobility are linked, right? Which is
that if you`re going to say, you know, there`s this kind of saying, you
know, we don`t believe in equality of outcomes, we believe in equality of
opportunity and, you know, everyone talks about two society -- you know,
well then poor kids have to get enough food so they`re not, like, starving,
you know, in order to achieve whatever human potential. It seems to me
like even the most kind of conservative vision of providing equality of
opportunity has to include some money for food stamps.
BARRO: Well, I think higher ed is another big component to this, and
I think that we have so much focus on how broken our health care sector is
and how much inflation there is and that, and that`s because that`s on the
budget. In higher ed, we`d have basically the same inflation trend as in
health care, but because much of that cost is basically shifted to the
HAYES: On consumers, yes, exactly.
BARRO: But it`s not taken as big a public policy concern. But a big
thing that`s cementing inequality is that education is increasingly
expensive. So, it`s a lot harder for people to work their way through
college than it used to be. And --
HAYES: And they start -- when they do, they start with tremendous
amounts of debt.
BARRO: We talk about, you know, how much money to throw at higher
education. But, really, the fundamental problem here is just the cost, no
matter the payer is, has grown so much in a way that is not producing new
value. And that really needs to be addressed so that it can made
SEDER: I think you`re also going to address education starting on
the early side.
SEDER: The average poor child enters into elementary school knowing
something like 2,000 words less.
SEDER: Having a vocabulary that begins as an obstacle right at the
beginning of schooling.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: But what is the disconnect between the Republican
electorate and the Republican electorate officials? Because we do see
support for programs such as SNAP with the general electorate and in
particular with Republicans.
So, what is going on in between is my question.
HAYES: I think there`s two ways to think about it. One is that it
sort of trying to demonize the poor and trying to, you know, basically use
it as a political cudgel -- which is one part of it, I think. But I also
think it ends up being a process of elimination.
What`s happened basically is that Republicans say we want to cut
spending so we can reduce deficits. But we won`t touch all the stuff that
our senior citizen constituency uses, right, which is a huge part of the
budget, and we`re not going to defense. So, then, we`re left with a
quarter of the budget.
So, then yes, if you define yourself a quarter of the budget to make
up all, you`ve got to take a hatchet to everything, right? And so, you end
up in places where you can attack without having to feel the wrath of
political constituencies that actually support you and vote for you. So,
it`s inevitable that you end up sort of backing yourself into SNAP.
All right. What do we know now that we didn`t know last week? My
answer`s after this.
HAYES: In just a moment, what we know now we didn`t know last week.
But, first, a quick correction.
Earlier in the program, we incorrectly attributed a still picture of
solar panels, the photo actually came from the
solarelectriclightfundself.org not the racist Web site stormfront.org. We
apologize for that somewhat ridiculous error.
We also have updates on a few stories we`ve been following.
After Mitt Romney said raising kids counts as work, too, some House
Democrats are introducing a bill to make that philosophy law. The women`s
option to raise kids or WORK Act will let women continue receiving federal
assistance while raising kids age 3 or younger. As we reported last week,
Romney said in January that even moms with kids as young as two should be
cut off from federal assistance if they are not working outside the home.
House Republicans are expected to block passage of the WORK Act.
We also have an update on the continuing fallout from the rule that
the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, played in
the supporting the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida, that became
controversial in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. ALEC announced
it was shutting down its public safety and elections task fierce to, quote,
"concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation, and
put Americans back to work." Read union-busting.
That didn`t stop Yum Brands, the operator of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco
Bell this week from joining 11 others companies, including McDonald`s and
Coca-Cola, that have dropped out of ALEC.
And, finally, quick update on my Mike Oust (ph), the Houston pastor,
who revealed on our program that he no longer believes in God. After his
appearance on our program, he and his church mutually agreed to part ways.
Mike addressed the congregation to explain why, and reactios ranged from
hostile to supportive, to secretly sympathetic. Mike tells us he`s in
discussions about forming what he call as post-Christian church and plans
to continue doing weddings and funerals secularly.
So, what do we know now we didn`t know last week?
We know that one small thing won`t solve the problem of climate but
that the ultimate solution requires thousands and millions of small things
done at every little thing from the individual up to government.
We know that we cannot expiate our duty to act as citizens by simply
being more enlightened consumers and we know we have a moral obligation
both to future generations and those who inhabit the areas of the world
most at risk of climate disaster to use our relative privilege to force our
own government to act.
We now know what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop`s opinion is
truly worth to the House Republicans after the bishop sent a letter to the
chair of the agriculture committee chastising his proposed budget for
failing a moral criteria because it slashes food stamp spending at a time
for record poverty.
We know that on social issues, Republicans are more than happy to
parade around the bishop imprimatur. But as soon as issue is economic
fairness or war and peace, they tune out.
Thanks to U.S. Congressman Gary Peters. We know that Federal
Stafford College loan interest rates are scheduled to double in July. We
know that student debt is now larger than auto loan debt and credit card
debt, according to economists and the New York Fed. And we`ve instructed
an entire generation to take out debt in order to get an education and are
now releasing them into the worst labor market in 30 years.
We also know that Congress can act to stop interest rate spike. But
as of now, Republican members of Congress don`t appear to be onboard.
We know that this week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal received a
petition from Amnesty International with tens of thousands of signatories
from 125 different countries on behalf of Herman Wallace and Albert
Those two incarcerated men founded a Black Panther chapter in the
infamous Angola, Louisiana Prison. And as of April 17th, the two men have
been held in solitary confinement for 40 years. They are each in a 6x9x12-
foot cell for 23 hours a day, with exercise three times a week -- every
week, every month, every year, for 40 years.
The state says they murdered a guard in prison, while the men
maintained they were framed as punishment for their political activism.
Their fellow inmate, Robert King, spent 29 years in solitary before being
released in 2001 when his conviction was overturned.
We know that information about the number of prisoners being held in
solitary confinement is hard to come by. The last time data was collected
was 12 years ago when the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that
approximately 80,000 people confined in segregation units in state and
And, finally, we now know that not every group of shareholders simply
rubber stamps management`s exorbitant pay proposals. Citi shareholders
give a non-binding vote of no to the proposed $50 million pay package for
CEO Vikram Pandit and opposed compensation packages for four other top
executives as well. We know that the system of CEO cronyism farce in which
highly paid CEOs sit on other highly-paid CEOs compensation where,
shockingly, they recommend exorbitant compensation.
We know that in 2010, CEO pay was up 23 percent. And in 2011, it was
up another 14 percent. This list you see scrolling here is the 50 most
highly paid CEOs at U.S. public companies in 2011.
We know that some Citi shareholders have now actually sued over the
executive compensation at Citi and we know that reforming corporate
governance is one of the key battles in finally ending the country`s ever
accelerating inequality trends.
All right. So I want to hear what you guys know now that you didn`t
know at the end of the week.
Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, I`ll start with you.
DEFRANCESCO SOTO: A Pew study came out this week showing that a
greater number of women in comparison to men desire successful, high-paying
jobs. So, 66 percent of women compared to 59 percent, and so we have seen
growth since the last time this was done. However, this doesn`t mean that
women do not also put a premium on marriage and parenting. We don`t see
them as mutually exclusive. In short, we want it all.
HAYES: Yes. It was actually a really interesting data, because it
showed that women wanted more successful jobs, also want to get married,
also want to have kids, and then we`re basically just like playing around
and playing video games, as far as we can tell. That`s an
oversimplification of the public opinion data.
HERBERT: Guys have been doing that all along. They want it all.
HAYES: Sam Seder, what do you now know?
SEDER: Well, I`m going to go --
HAYES: Did I take your --
SEDER: Yes. But about 2 1/2 months ago, Eric Schneiderman sat at
this table and told you that if something wasn`t happening within six
months, he was going to be disappointed with the financial fraud task force
that he joined. And in part at least to sign on to an agreement that
allowed essentially the banks to get away with all sorts of mortgage fraud
for basically a pittance.
Well, we`re three months later, and there`s no office has been set up
for this financial fraud task force. Now, we`ve been told that we don`t
really need offices, people are talking, and we`re using resources.
HAYES: Conference calls, e-mail chains.
SEDER: Conference calls, e-mail chains. But it`s going to be really
hard without an office, I think, in three months to see any real progress.
And what we do know is that following that agreement foreclosures
have spiked, because the banks were afraid to go into the courtroom with
essentially faulty documents showing a lack of a chain of title. And now,
they feel a little more confident doing that.
HAYES: That`s really interesting.
Josh Barro, what do we know now?
BARRO: We had good news on the urban development front this week.
Darrell Issa, who is chairman of House oversight ands I`m sure is a
favorite of people watching this program.
BARRO: He is working with the Washington, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray to
repeal the 102-year law that limits height of buildings in Washington, D.C.
Simultaneously, Mayor Bloomberg here in New York has put out a proposal to
up-zone the area right around Grand Central, in midtown, and allow more
super-tall buildings. The city has created a lot of ton of wealth in our
society and allowing to get even denser, will allow them to create even
more wealth and jobs and I think this is really good news.
HAYES: Yes, there is a book out by Matt Yglesias which is an e-book
who is now writing for "Slate" on economic cover (ph), "The Rent is Too
Damn High," which is an e-book, it`s Kindle single which sort of makes an
argument for the importance of density and zoning laws and sort of driving
the economic growth, and he really hates those height limits, too. So,
Bob Herbert, what do you now know?
HERBERT: We are not making as much progress on the economy as some
pundits and politics would have us believe. Both "The New York Times" and
the "Wall Street Journal" led the paper on Friday with stories saying that
the recovery appears to be weakening. So, there`s a great deal more to be
done on that front.
HAYES: Yes, there`s a fair amount of -- it`s very hard that you end
up in a position of essentially economic forecaster when you`re covering
the politics right now, particularly the election, because everyone
understands that macro economic health is going to be the driving factor in
terms of the president`s re-election prospects. And so, then, we all end
up in a slightly bizarre kind of amateur role of, you know, trying to make
these macro economic predictions, which, you know, if I was very good at,
you know, there`s actually a lot of money to be made.
SEDER: More important is the narrative --
SEDER: -- as much as the actual macro economic trends is the
HERBERT: And more important even than that, there are the number of
people who are still out of work or underemployed.
My thanks to Victoria DeFrancesco Soto from Latino Decisions, Sam
Seder from Majority.fm, Josh Barro from Forbes.com, and Bob Herbert, author
of the book, "Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream."
Thanks for getting up. Thank you for joining us today for "UP."
Join us tomorrow, Sunday morning at 8:00, when we`ll be talking Iran and
Israel with author Peter Beinart.
You can get more info about tomorrow`s program at Up.MSNBC.com.
And coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry.
Melissa, what have you got today?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: All that, all that.
Well, we`re going to talk about the 2008 -- excuse me, well, we can
still talk the 2008 election, but we`re really going to talk about the 2012
elections and trying to think about where President Obama stands right now
and how in fact this is not all in the bag yet. There is a real election
We`re also going to take a look at Louisiana. We`re going to ask
about shrimp who don`t have eyes and crabs that don`t have legs and all of
the stories that we need to hear still about the BP oil spill.
And then, of course, as you know because of me doing cheerleading
moves in nerd land yesterday, we`re going to talk about the Title IX and
women and sports.
HAYES: Yes. You were doing some amazing moves up in the floor
yesterday, and brought the staff out of the offices.
That`s Melissa Harris-Perry coming up next, and we`ll see you right
here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for getting up.
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