Guests: Dan Dicker, Craig Melvin, Peter Goodman, Jamal Simmons, Katon Dawson, Anthea Butler, Derrell Bradford, Lila Jeff, Ileana Jimenez, Natasha Adams, Michael Gellman, Dan Dickers, Jennifer Beals
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, we are taking our kids`
future seriously. What kind of country are we building and how much debt
are we leaving?
And the Jennifer Beals joins Nerdlands; her new project takes on sexual
assault in the military.
Plus, it`s back to school time. Who is really gets left behind?
But first, the campaign about big ideas or not.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
It was all so good, just a week ago when Mitt Romney picked Congressman
Paul Ryan as his running mate. There was one reaction across the aisle.
We were finally going to have an election about ideas, sweet, baby Jesus,
the tide had finally turned. Regardless of philosophies, both sides seemed
ready to debate the issues. That lasted for three days. Then things like
this started to happen. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, Mr. President, take your
campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get
about rebuilding and reuniting America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And with that, the gloves were off, again. If you look at
the news over the past few days, there wasn`t much talk of ideas. Well,
actually, maybe one over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: We have been very transparent to what`s
legally required of us. But the more we release, the more we get attacked.
The more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so, we have done
what`s legally required, and there`s going to be no more tax releases
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Taxes, taxes, taxes, Obama for America campaign manager Jim
Messina seized op the Romney tax return issue and issued this challenge to
the Romney campaign manager, Matt Rhodes on Friday.
He writes, "if the governor will release five years of returns, I will
commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more,
neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the
rest of the campaign.
But of course, because negativity is an equal opportunity gain, Matt Rhodes
responded back the e-mail with this. "If Governor Romney`s tax returns are
the core message of your campaign there, will be ample time for President
Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days."
Back and forth the round and round we go. And here is the thing, the
campaign for president with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, aren`t any more
critical or negative to what we`ve seen in the past.
Let`s me introduce you to the OG, the negative campaigning, Thomas
Jefferson and John Adams. That`s right. Campaign 2012 has got nothing on
the campaign of 1800 in terms of negativity.
Jefferson said Adams had a hideous, hemaphrodical (ph) character which has
needed the force and firmness of a man who were the gentlest and
sensibility of a woman. Adams in return said Jefferson was quote, "a mean
spirited low life fellow, the son of a half-bread Indian fired by Virginia
Can you imagine what the hash tags would have been on this campaign? And
in 1828, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, was straight up vicious.
They brought out the fangs, the clause and kitchen sinks. Adams supporters
called Jackson`s mother a common prostitute and his wife a convicted
Jackson supporters accused Adams of being a pimp, alleging he arranged a
hooker for the dare Alexander I, which by the way he kind of did, with
taxpayer money. Now, this was all before the advent of TV. But when TV
went live, so did negativity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE KID: Eight, nine, nine --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Hard to miss the point there. Vote for LBJ or risk being
wiped off the face of the earth. Nothing negative, right? Now, let`s jump
ahead to 1988, a group supporting George H. W. Bush dealt Michael Dukakis a
severe blow with the infamous Willy Horton ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Horton fled, kidnapping a young couple, stabbing a man
and repeatedly raping his girlfriend. Weekend prison passes, Dukakis on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we can focus on just the negativity because let`s face
it, there is a lot of if, that would be too easy. The negativity, the ads,
they were just the critique. If we dig deeper, the negativity can be a
means to an end, because if a candidate doesn`t want to talk about his tax
returns, isn`t it possible that can signal to voters he might not be honest
it comes to other things, like our economy or our reasons for going to war?
And when an incumbent talks about his challenger unchaining the banks,
regardless of his intended meaning, that may signal to some but perhaps he
is not as racially progressive as they want. It may not always be pretty,
but getting into the proverbial weeds can tell us something about the
issues that we care about and in turn, the issues can then be made
important by the voters.
Joining me now, Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania professor, Peter
Goodman, executive business editor at "Huffington Post" and author of "Past
Due, the end of easy money and the renewal of the American Economy," Katon
Dawson, he is our guy, former South Carolina GOP chair, and national
Republican consultant, and Jamal Simmons, the Democratic consultant at the
It`s so nice to have everybody here.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So Peter, negativity is not necessarily anything
new. But, is this something different in today`s campaigning? Is 2012
PETER GOODMAN, EXECUTIVE BUSINESS EDITOR, HUFFINGTON POST: Yes, I think
it`s different. And it`s different because both of these candidates
understand that there very few moderates, very few voters understand to go
after. And it is a base election, trying to turn out their base, appeal
their core supporters and turn off the other guys` base. And that`s an
ugly process to watch if are you happen to be turning on your TV this
morning in Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida, you are probably tempted to
turn off the TV until, you know, after Election Day because of the
negativity. And it is pretty much about making the other guys` base so
beleaguered, that you almost get the feeling that democracy is not for you.
It is beside the point. It has nothing to do with solving the everyday
issues that ordinary people face.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know it is so interesting. You say it`s a base election
because it is a presidential election, not ought to be a base election,
right? This ought to be a big, broad election, we ought to be hoping have
the independents, the moderates, the swings, or maybe I don`t always know
about politics out. It`s one thing when it happens in an off-year
election. But in this, it feels like is this about keeping the moderates
out of the election?
KATON DAWSON, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOP CHAIRMAN: I think in this election
got a little different than Peter Allen, the selection is about, the person
he hadn`t need a party. I will base his comment, the Democrat base. They
are energized. Our base is looking a Supreme Court justice and we are
theory and conservatism.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean could we please have an ad about that?
DAWSON: But at the end of the day, the person who doesn`t identify with
each party, 122 million to 16 million people in each state, what`s
happening in this election, human nature and technology have collided.
Blogs, Huffington, everybody out there, and that`s why this one is going to
be decided so late. We were talking in the room earlier, this will be
election that neither party`s base will decide that that person who kicked
the Republicans out in 2006 over spending, we put Republicans back in the
house in 2010 on spending in my opinion, and that`s the way we`re all
HARRIS-PERRY: So Kate, are you going to tell me that this is an issue
DAWSON: I wish it was.
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel like that`s what we heard initially, with the Ryan
rollout, so, this is now going to be about ideas. You know, I was reading
Frank Rich in "New York" magazine. And he says here that the president,
any president, should go negative early and often and without apology, if
the goal is victory. The notion that negative campaigning is some toxic
modern aberration in Democracy is bogus.
So, is that right? Should we just say OK, maybe it will be about issues,
maybe it won`t. The point is if you want to win, you have to go in hard.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Every presidential campaign is about
leadership and trust. How do we figure out which two people on the ballot
do we trust more than the other ones, always comparative and so I can make
And so, it is not the Obama`s campaign to cover up Mitt Romney`s faults.
Not their job to sit there and say well, he agreed to the health care plan
before he was opposed to it, he -- Ryan agreed to the president`s Medicare
savings before, now, he`s attacking it. It`s their job to talk about that,
to educate the voters, and the voters can make an informed decision about
which one of these people do I trust to sit in the room when nobody is
watching and make a decision on behalf of me and my family.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that does the president makes a very similar point. And
I want to come to you about this. This is the president yesterday in New
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You will see more negative
ads than you and ever seen your life. So, they will try to do is just hope
that if they can tap into people`s frustration, anxiety, that somehow they
will win, even though what they are selling won`t work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So here, we have the president saying you will see a bunch
of negative ads. Don`t worry. They are just going to be counting negative
ads from places out here, but we`ll really talk to you is about the issue.
Is that fair or really just going to be who can beat up most?
ANTHEA BUTLER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: One of two things.
One is who can beat up on most of anybody else? And second, it is not
about ideas, it`s about ideology. And in ideology of both parties that are
in play, and that what`s going to happen is that is that as we try to get
that middle that Katon has talked about, they have no decide which
ideology, not which ideas because ideas are, you know, sort of free
floating right now. It`s the ideology of both parties that is being
I said to somebody, I said is this election, depending on how you look at
it. For Democrats, it was an election about had will we continue to allow
election to help people. And for the republicans, it is like, it is about
the individual and it is about how we are going to beat up government is
not supposed to be in the midst of our lives.
And then, there`s this middle people who want - who need government in
certain ways, but don`t want the intrusions on the other and they have to
decide which side of the fence am I going to stand on? So, that`s about
the ideology, and I think that`s what we`re hearing more and more.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is interesting. We will come back on the issue.
But I like what you are suggesting. It is about ideology. You are
suggesting it`s about leadership and character, but, of course, there is -
you know, my favorite negative ad of all times was 1800, when the
federalist said Thomas Jefferson was dead. I love that.
I`m not saying he`s a bad guy, I`m just saying don`t vote for the dead guy.
He was, of course, not actually dead.
HARRIS-PERRY: From the start of his campaign, Mitt Romney wanted to run on
jobs, jobs, jobs, but then, he invited Paul Ryan on the team, and now the
GOP`s big idea guy is changing the course of the campaign. That is working
out just fine for the Democrats and that`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My plan has already extends the life of Medicare by nearly a
decade. Their plan would put Medicare on track to be ended as we know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama yesterday at a campaign stop in
Windham, New Hampshire, telling voters why his plan for Medicare was better
than the plan of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
So, let`s see what Paul Ryan had to say about the Romney/Ryan plan when he
spoke to a crowd at the Villages retirement community in Sanford, Florida
just three hours before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here is what Mitt Romney
and I will do. We will end berate of Medicare. We will restore the
promise of this program and we will make sure that this board of
bureaucrats won`t mess with my mom`s health care or your mom`s health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, you know it is game on when the candidate starts
talking about his mama and your mama. So, since Paul Ryan`s edition to the
GOP ticket, there have been in fact some issues that are enjoying a
genuinely robust debate about big ideas.
Medicare has now been a campaign issue; in fact campaign issue number one
for full week. Perhaps it will lead to more substantive discussion, at
least one can hope.
At the table, Anthea Butler, Peter Goodman, Katon Dawson and Jamal Simmons.
So, one possibility is, we are going actually talk about issues, like
Medicare which is something worth talking about. The other, we`ll go all
negative and if we go all negative, we shrink, divide, polarize the
electorate. Realistically what is going to happen in the campaign?
SIMMONS: It`s hard to talk about Medicare without being negative because
the seniors at the Democrats are trying to convince they care about having
a system that will care about them. They care about their kids having a
system that is going to also able to take care of them.
And if you are a 50-year-old which falls under the Ryan/Romney era, if
you`re 50 year old whose 401 (k) had evaporated in the last few years,
whose house is now under water, whose pension has now disappeared, and now
you want to tell me that we are going to take away Medicare, because it is
the only chance maybe I maybe to make sure I have health care when I`m in
senior years? It`s a little bit disconcerting. And I think the Democrats
are going to hammer in on that the next few months.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And remember, and 50 is different now than it once
one, right? So, at 50, you may still be paying back student loans for
yourself as you are taking them out for your kids, right? And at 50, you
may only be in your first home. I mean, it is not 50, at one point sort of
well established to one`s career. And that`s not what 50 feels like
GOODMAN: Let`s pick up the easy part of the equation which is the
Republican half. I mean, on the Republican side, we can see a classic
depress voter turnout strategy. There is an understanding that they got
nothing to talk about in terms of actual solutions to the large problems of
the day, except for a return to, you know, free markets obsession, fantasy,
the same sort of ideology that got us into the mess that we`re in we don`t
hear any real solutions, access to health care, jobs crisis.
So, what we have is an attack on the Democratic basis. We have an attempt
to be leaguer the democratic voter, to confuse, exhaust us with negative
campaign commercials, to see the desperation of, you know, Paul Ryan who
wants to voucherize (ph) Medicare who is launching the ultimate raid on
Medicare and dismantling the social safety net accusing President Obama of
trying to dismantle Medicare.
GOODMAN: I mean this is desperation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I don`t take that lightly. I mean, particularly when
you say the goal was to exhaust and to suppress because even as we hear
Paul Ryan saying we`re getting rid of bureaucrats making health care
decisions of for your mama. We do know that Republicans around the country
are allowing tables of bureaucrats. To me, this is whether or not you get
the chance to vote. I mean, we have to vote on this, right?
So, the suppression efforts are both active and then potentially, through
negative campaigning, also this kind of indirect suppression.
GOODMAN: Let`s understand that if they manage to be leaguer African-
American voters and we see a 95 percent margin in favor of President Obama
and yet turnout drops by five percent in Ohio, in Florida, in Pennsylvania,
because people say, you know, this is a horrible advertisement for
democracy. I think I will do something else entirely and pay attention to
what`s going on here. That could be pivotal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, black folks don`t tire so easily.
HARRIS-PERRY: We -- on this one -- young people might totally pass out,
but we got a whole song on nobody is tired.
BUTLER: Exactly. And people are motivated. I mean, you know, we got a
91-year-old woman in Philadelphia fighting for and leading this whole
charge against this voter suppression, then you know that people won`t get
But I think that the other part of this, when we are talking about how you
will do the stuff, also about lying. OK, let`s just put it on the table
and say what it is, because, in part what you have to say with Medicare is,
OK, he`s taking everything out of Medicare. The president`s state is
robbing from you to pay, you know, to pay other people and that`s just not
So, part of what`s going on, there will be the sort of, you know shifting
on both sides, how will we plan this, how will we do it? And then, you
know, all of this gets lost for people because you just hear this rabble
rousing instead of what`s actually true on each side.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, let`s listen to it. We got an ad from the Obama
for America campaign. And then, we listen to one from the Romney campaign.
And then, I will let you response on the questions of whether or not, is it
just negativity or negativity and devote negativity and falsehood? So,
let`s listen first to President Obama`s ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the Ryan plan? AARP said it would undermine
Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors and experts say Ryan`s
voucher plan could raise future retiree`s costs more than $6,000. Get the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, this is President Obama`s plan to get the
facts. Now, let`s see what the Romney campaign has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck. Now
when you need it, Obama has cut $716 million for Medicare. Why, to pay for
Obama care. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is
going to a massive, new government program that`s not for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Medicare is a massive government program. I mean --
SIMMONS: It was designed to be one.
HARRIS-PERRY: It just is.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I mean when I look at those two, I mean, obviously this
sort of, you know, who song you chooses about the Pinocchios, right? But
it does feels me when I listen to the second one and I hear, you paid into
Medicare for years in every paycheck, now you need -- that`s a
misinterpretation of what Medicare is. It is a big government program and
not a savings account. It is not actually you getting your money back out.
So is that a less accurate, like just a matter of accuracy ad?
DAWSON: Well, most of the ads have to burn in eight, nine, ten times for
the voter we`re talking about and try to absorb it because those are pretty
deep-thinking ads. I mean, the president has AARP, a core group that
everybody is going after, one that has a lot of political juice. The
Romney ad is going after different things. So, I would contend neither one
the ads is really lighting the fires out there on electoral politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: They are both nerd ads.
DAWSON: They are nerd ads and the way deep in the weeds. This - the
election that, and if I can show my age, the Reagan/Carter election, Jimmy
Carter collapsed at labor day because of are you better off today than four
In the Bush versus Clinton, and this is the lesson of this, the lesson to
me, the Bill Clinton wouldn`t let George Bush get away from the economy,
period. And George Bush raised taxes. And so the base was disaffected.
So, Clinton went after him. Brilliant politician, likeable guy, four years
better. So then you come and it`s the economy - then, you get to Obama
versus McCain. McCain was exactly the most energetic campaign.
DAWSON: And we can all disagree or agree on Sarah Palin`s role, but that
was hope and change and people grasp. So, it comes down after the noise,
Melissa, it gets down to that one thing to what the voter at home said.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what is the thing?
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things -- we`ll -- I promise we`ll talk more
about this. And we talk a little bit more about what sticks and
particularly, we are going to add two new voices to the conversation
because I want to know how -- what sticks makes a difference to the young
people in our country. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: So we made it clear that negative campaigning is nothing new
and it isn`t going anywhere. But, what difference does that make, in
particular for young folks? What difference does it make to exist in a
world and in a country where we have so much negative campaigning? If we
exist in a political world full of negativity and divisiveness, then, how
do the issues that we are discussing sound to the young people who will be
citizen who are making these voting choices in the next few years.
Joining me now to give their opinion on this is Natasha Adams. She is a
student at the city university of New York and Michael Gellman, a graduate
of the Bronx Science high school, who will be attending Harvard in the fall
of 2013, nice to see both of you.
NATASHA ADAMS, GIRLS FOR GENDER EQUITY: Nice to see you too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And of course, Anthea and Peter are going to hang out with
us as well.
So, just before the break came off, I was talking about the 1980 campaign
between Reagan and Carter which is the first campaign I remember because it
was jelly beans versus peanuts. And I remember thinking that I liked jelly
beans, but my parents were very clear that no, we didn`t like the jelly
bean guy, we liked the peanut guy. It took a lot for me to get over that.
But when you think about the campaigns that mattered to you, what are sort
of the early campaign memories that for you stick? Yes, this is what
American political campaigning is like?
ADAMS: Well, in the beginning of Obama 2008 campaign, he really made it
important to talk about education and making sure he empowers students to
make sure they get ahead of their education, and make sure they are getting
And for someone in college, I mean, sitting in high school, I thought that
was really important, and that like considering that he was going to be the
first black president of the United States, I felt that really stood out to
me and everyone was raving for Obama, and, you know, we voted for him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, certainly sort of the youth vote. The vote of
your generation was considered critical over and over again in state after
state. Does this campaign, 201 feel fundamentally different to you than
MICHAEL GELLMAN, GRADUATE, EBONY SCIENCE HIGH SCHOOL: Well, I think what
`08 was about, when you see Obama running and running as someone who has
less political experience, but who is really running on this platform of
change that really spoke to us. Because we have not been maybe operating
in the political spears as long, and we are about change, and are about
keeping ideas than fixing the problems, you know a lot of the problems.
And so, that was inspiring to me. And I think what`s upsetting about this
election is as incumbent, he is now running -- and he`s -- he`s lost that -
- that voice in a way. He`s lost the voice of -- we have to continue
moving forward, and they are so entrenched in that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Anthea, you are on a college campus, do you see the same
kind of shift between `08 and `12? And do you think of any way for him to
regain the voice?
BUTLER: Well, yes. I think you know, there is a loss of the voice, so
this sort of his loss of innocence, I hear it in your voice and a lot of
students talk about that. But I also have sort of two kinds of students.
One is a really engaged student. And I am thinking about one of my former
students who is now working on the Obama campaign in New Hampshire. That
really energized her in `08. And now in `12, she is out there, you know,
running a field office, doing all of these other things, she`s great. So,
shout out to Janice.
But then, there is this other student who is really upset and married that
person who is upset because, you know, my situation is bad, I don`t have a
job, I graduated, I don`t know when I`m going to work, how much longer can
I stay in school? I`m wrecking up a lot of debt. Neither one of these
candidates seems to speaking to me.
BUTLER: And so, I think that`s going to be the fundamental issue and then
it is harder for college students to vote. I mean, you can`t just be in
one state. If you go to school in another state, you have to go back home,
and you got to do these other things.
So, I think this is going to be a very big issue in the next couple of
months to figure out how we get college students involved.
HARRIS-PERRY: If there was one economic issue, or one political issue that
you wish campaigns were focusing on, is it Medicare? Is it, you are sort
of thinking about where are you going in terms of Medicare? In other
words, is it that kind of long-term issue or there is something more short
term, a little close to home?
ADAMS: I would say definitely more short-term and close to home because I
feel like all they are doing is sort of nitpicking and snapping at each
other, not catching my attention, and issues I really want them to focus on
is equity and education. Definitely getting a woman moderator and the
campaign, and, you know, focus on women`s issues and definitely the job
issue. You know, why aren`t there jobs or security for college students
that are getting out of college, and even for my generation who can`t even
find a job.
HARRIS-PERRY: Equity in education, women`s issues and an economic security
for young people. How about you?
GELLMAN: I think even though we`re very young, it`s certainly nice to know
that under Obama`s plan, we have our parents` heath insurance a while
longer. That is something that I think is important to us. But what
really matters to me, aside from the economy, is equality and in all its
forms. So, equality for undocumented immigrants and, you know, really
pushing for the dream act and gay rights, and these are things that I think
Obama is tapping into, to regain his voice, you know, his new sense is gay
rights, his new sense on the subject I think recapturing a lot of optimism
in the younger generation now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Michael and Natasha, you are going to stick with us and
come back a little later. We want to talk about exactly the issues have
brought up here which is equity and education. We`ll talk about those
things. But, we are going to have more with this panel in a bit.
But up next, I got Jennifer Beals and she is joining us in nerdland.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve confronted the problem of rape and other forms of
sexual assault in the past on this show. We will continue to do so. And
when it comes to sexual assault in the military there are a unique set of
obstacle for survivors seeking justice.
Now, we previously, giving you the scope of the problem and statistics,
statistics which we can`t be reminded of enough. Earlier this year, the
department of defense revealed there were 3,192 sexual assault reports
filed within the U.S. military in 2011, an increase of one percent from the
previous year. And just more than 76 percent of those reports were
unrestricted, meaning that the reports were meant to launch an official
investigation. But the other 24 percent were restricted, intended to
shield the identity of the accuser.
And, again, those were just the reported cases, but to put faces on
statistics and in order to give us a sense of what survivors endure, a new
three-part series, Lauren, which airs this week on the you tube channel
wigs, directed by veteran filmmaker, Leslie Lincoln Glazer (ph). It stars
(INAUDIBLE) as the young sergeant alleging a gang rape at the hands of her
fellow soldiers. Her complaint lands on the desk of Major Jill Stone,
portrayed by Jennifer Beals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am trying to get you to understand you are exposed.
You are exposed to scrutiny. Only 10 percent of unrestricted reports get
prosecuted, and even if the meant are deemed guilty, they are likely to
suffer a reprimand or a slapped pay cut, nothing more.
But what will happen to you may expose you to repercussions for your entire
career. In the prosecution is successful, you may be exposed to the
resentment of your male colleagues. If it is unsuccessful, you may be
exposed to further harassment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining us now from Los Angeles is the star of Lauren and
many more works we`ve loved over the years, Jennifer Beals.
This is lovely to have you here.
JENNIFER BEALS, ACTRESS: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is both very hard to watch and very hard to turn
away from. Tell me about the character you play in "Lauren."
BEALS: Well, I think Major Stone is a career soldier basically. I think
she`s come up through the ranks at a time where she`s had to completely
embrace the sort of patriarchal culture of the military. I think she`s a
really hard-boiled soldier.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know it is interesting you talk about this language of
soldier. Because as I was watching the episodes, I thought this is a war
movie, but it`s war in such a different way, because it`s not combat on the
field of combat. This is actually combat of the soldier within the very
system itself. What compelled you towards this project? What drew you to
BEALS: Well, I had been studying the subject for a while. Not
specifically military sexual trauma, but what it means to be a woman in the
military, and it`s interesting to me sort of the juxtaposition of gender
stereotypes within the militaristic culture if that makes sense. I was
interested in how does a woman become a warrior? And what does it take to
become a warrior within that context?
HARRIS-PERRY: Actually, it does make a lot of sense to me, particularly
sort of the harshness with which the character that you play responds to
the young soldier who is saying I`ve been raped, and that harshness is
meant -- it seems to me, at least in watching it, is meant to somehow both
be kind, right? It is saying don`t pursue this, don`t try to go for
justice, because actually there is no justice for you to get, it`s just
going to be harder for you.
BEALS: Well, I think Major Stone has had to go through a similar
experience and maybe several times, and I think in order to survive within
the culture, she has almost become ossified in a way and she is trying to
help this young woman prevent further victimization really.
HARRIS-PERRY: At the end of every episode, there is -- you all direct the
viewers to the service women`s action network. Take this off the screen
and into real life for me. What can viewer who see this and are moved by
it, what should we be doing?
BEALS: Well, I think one of the things that you can do is write to your
congressperson and support the stop act. I think there are several
veterans organizations that you can support, because I think one of the
larger problems in terms of the veterans community is that a lot of female
soldiers, once they get out, don`t even consider themselves to be veterans
because that seems to be the complete sort of safe for men -- I`m sorry,
it`s so early in the morning for me. I can`t even quite put words
But I think awareness certainly helps. I think supporting the stop act
helps. There is also a petition to make is so that people -- assail plant
who are convicted within the military judicial system, have to register as
sex offenders when they get out of military, because right now, they don`t
have to register as sex offenders.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jennifer Beals, I so appreciate your performance in this
thesis. I understand it`s been green lighted to go on to more pieces. And
it`s bringing light to such a critical issue.
BEALS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
After the break, we turn our attention back to the GOP running mate, Paul
Ryan and a dead Russian novelist who helped shape his plan for the U.S.
economy. Ayn Rand is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mitt Romney`s announcement of Paul Ryan`s running mate a
week ago caused a flurry of media attention. And it also caused the name
of a Russian novelist who has been for 30 years to trend on twitter. Her
name is Ayn Rand and she was born in Russia in 1905. As a teen, she
experienced a revolution that both a personal and political core.
Now, Rand is best known for her most two most popular novels, "the fountain
head" and "atlas shrugged." I`ll admit, in college I was enchanted with
France and while I was poring over "retched of the earth, " my libertarian
friends indulge the self righteous conquer the world, I`m only in it for
myself faith of their 20s by highlighting and dog-earing Rand`s books.
Now, the core of Rand`s novels is objectivism, a philosophy that extols the
virtues of unfettered, unchecked, fully individualized capitalism. Rand`s
objectivism is inherited more than a decade later by Gordon Gecko,
remember, greed is good? It`s the ethical case for the selfish individual.
So why was Rand trending on twitter last week? Because it turns out,
Congressman Paul Ryan is still in his collegiate I love Ayn Rand phase.
Here he is in 2009.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It doesn`t surprise me
that sales of "the fountain head" and "atlas shrugged" have surged lately
with Obama coming in. Because is that kind of thinking, that kind of
writing that is sorely needed right now. And I think a lot of people would
observe that we`re right now living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically
But more to the point is this. The issue that is under assault, the attack
on Democratic capitalism, individualism and freedom in America is an attack
on the moral foundation of America. And Ayn Rand more than anyone else,
did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality
of individualism, and this to me is what is matters most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Ryan went so far as to make rand`s work required reading of
his congressional staff. Now, much have been made of Ryan`s Rand
obsession, so let`s clear up I few points.
No, it does not mean that Ryan is an atheist, as Rand avowedly was. And
no, it doesn`t mean that Ryan romanticizes rape and sexual assault as many
readers believed that Rand`s novels do - I mean that re-assuring right?
But it also seems that Ryan`s symbolic intellectual embrace of Rand`s
writing might mean surprisingly little about how he actually plans to help
Mitt Romney govern if elected to the heartbeat away spot.
You see, agree with Rand or not, she was absolutely committed to the
singular goal of liberating individuals from all collective projects
including tradition, moralism, and government. Each person had only one
responsibility, to pursue his own happiness. Nothing about Paul Ryan
suggests this level of ideological parody.
Ryan isn`t really a devotee of Rand. He just uses her as a convenient,
philosophical crutch. As the nation`s magazines, Ben Adler pointed out
this week, you see, Ryan opposes the dream act, equal rights for gay
Americans and reproductive rights for women, all positions that runs
counter to Rand`s libertarianism.
And of course, there is that whole having a government job for the majority
of his working career thing and the using of that government job to try to
bring stimulus dollars to the district thing. Being elected and using your
elected office to help people is the definition of being a good member of
Congress. But it will definitely get you kicked out of the Tuesday night
Ayn Rand reading group on campus.
When we come back, I`ll show you why Congressman Ryan`s record would make
Ayn Rand throw up a little bit in her mouth.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mitt Romney chooses Paul Ryan as his running mate and his
endorsement this week of Ryan`s budget plan has only made official
something that has long been the case.
Paul Ryan is indisputively (ph) the ideological brain behind the Republican
Party and it`s decidedly of one-track mind who reduced the budget,
eliminate deficit, slash spending, and get it all done now.
Now, as the saying goes, the elephant never forgets. But a clip our
colleagues at "Up" uncovered earlier this morning suggests it might not be
the case because the brain behind the GOP elephant seems to be experiencing
a bit of cognitive dissonance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: What we are trying to accomplish with the passing of this third
stimulus package is create jobs and help the unemployed. What we`re trying
to accomplish is pass the kinds of legislation that when they passed in the
past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that was Paul Ryan back in 2002 making the case for
Bush stimulus package that included 50 percent spending to get the economy
going, and reduce unemployment.
Dan Dicker is an author and a CNBC contributor, Jamaal Simmons is the
Democratic consultant, Katon Dawson is Republican consultant, and Peter
Goodman is with the "Huffington Post."
All right, Dan, Ryan and I apparently agree. Stimulus spending seemed like
a good idea to get the economy going.
DAN DICKER, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, but not anymore. It is amazing how
Republicans get religion when there is a Democrat in the White House, isn`t
it? I mean, they had absolutely no problem with increase in spending to
tax cuts to unfunded wars, Medicare part "D," and none of this a problem in
the Bush years. All of a sudden, they`ve gotten religion.
But you know, truly, it is something that is a very compelling argument to
say we`ve got to cut the debt, and that our next generation is going to be
saddled with enormous debts that they won`t be able to pay. This is a
However, the Ryan budget which now Mitt Romney has finally signed on, I
thought that he would dance through that but, that he finally signed on,
the numbers don`t add up. It just doesn`t work to cut the deficit at all
and that`s really the problem with it. The numbers are from fantasy land.
When you have a debt, whether you are your own household or United States
of America, there are two ways that you can do something to slash that.
One, you can try and increase the money that`s coming into the house.
HARRIS-PERRY: Take a second job, what have you.
DICKER: Yes, take a second job or what have you or else you can try and
slash spending. On the revenue side, trying to increase the money, the
Ryan plan doesn`t touch at all. In fact, it drops quite a bit because we
know that top tax rate goes from 35 percent, now is 25 percent, and in fact
down to 10 percent in one place. The Ryan proposal said this is going to
be made up from tax entitlements and says another fantasy because 90
percent of tax entitlements that he won`t even talk about are on mortgage
reduction interest which is untouchable politically. And I`m sure it has
been untouchable politically itself. So, you know, even from the revenue
side, it just doesn`t add up as a start.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Katon, I am not - it turns out a company man, and he
supports his president as the same thing he did in 2002, right? His
president wants a stimulus. He made an argument for stimulus. He is now
going to be a VP. He is going to support his president. If he`s a company
man, that`s good. I`m all fine.
Bu the problem is, you got to keep saying that he is an Ayn Rand,
philosophical, ideological, brain behind, you know, behind the new economic
theory, and that just seems when we look at the actual plan to the to be
true. Not really a deficit hawk, right? He is just an anti-Obama-ite.
DAWSON: That may be true. But, if you look at his congressional license
and his congressional district, one of the things that was the most
appealing to me about him, he has appeal across just conservative lines.
And certainly he made the conservative base of the party happy when that
pick was made by Mitt Romney. I remember I ran campaigning against Mitt
Romney with two different presidential candidates, and he took every punch
we threw at him.
But at the end of the day, the pick there was, this is a guy who won in a
district when Obama won. I mean, he does reach across and some of the
reason he does is kind which you just said. He reaches across the aisle at
certain times, and seems to be fairly reasonable.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jamal, is that that people don`t care about the flip-
flop? Because I`m thinking, how does the Romney campaign not know about
this clip, right? Where "Up" is playing, I was like oh, my God, how does
the Romney campaign let this get through?
SIMMONS: Well look, Mitt Romney has been flip-flopping his entire career.
So, flip-flopping was his qualifier and the Romney campaign, they wouldn`t
even have the candidate there running with.
The reality is presidential campaigns are through a completely different
order. And so, you can get through a congressional campaign without you
paying a lot of attention. When you are running for president or vice
president, people pay an extraordinary amount of attention. And getting
that stroke, what we have to do about that.
Almost every bipartisan group says not only do we have to cut spending, but
we also have to increase revenue. It is like you get a second job and you
got to spend less money.
SIMMONS: That`s the hole we`re in. And until both parties come together
and say you know, we`ll jump off the cliff together, we are not going to
solve the problem. But here`s the thing, for most American voters, they
are much more concerned about the deficit and their own checkbook than they
are with the national deficit.
So, for the Romney/Ryan campaign, to be trying to sell to us that the
deficit is more important than economy and jobs, this is just a failed - I
think it is a really crazy kind of strategy to take on.
HARRIS-PERRY: If this could happen.
DICKER: They don`t matter, right?
GOODMAN: We can play this game with Romney and Ryan. Who is the real guy?
Romney was a moderate in Massachusetts. He had a pretty good record that
he can won on now. Ryan was for the stimulus when it was the Bush
stimulus, now, he is against it. It doesn`t matter because at the end of
the campaign, if they win, they are going to be beholden to the people who
wrote the checks to get them in the office. And they have branded
themselves, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, as the guys who`s administer the
tough Medicine which means dismantling a social safety net that has been
build up over seventy years. It is going to mean redistributing income
down, up, more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and slaps for middle
HARRIS-PERRY: But it is tough medicine, but tough medicine to the sickest
folks, right? So, tough medicine to the poorest people, not tough medicine
to those --.
GOODMAN: That`s right. And the sensible arithmetic lives on. I think in
the entire morning discussion, we`re sometimes boring the politics, that
the expedient politics, and where we going to end up when we actually have
to govern at the end of the election.
And the problem is that the public is being served up day by day, policies
where arithmetic not remotely involved. President Obama bears some
responsibility because as he gave us the stimulus absolutely necessary in
the beginning of 2009, he also began to talk about the deficit.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I promised we are going to exactly that policy question.
I will ask my naive deficit question of you as soon as we get back.
And coming up, is Paul Ryan hawkishness toward the U.S. debt going to cause
his new boss, Mitt Romney, the race? I promise we are going to answer
that, or maybe at least ask about it, when we come back.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry
in New York.
Debt is a technically four-letter world. But debt in and of itself
is actually morally neutral. Debt is a tool.
Now, in your personal finances, a student loan or mortgage on a home
may be smart reason to get into debt. Even if you`re in tough economic
times, a little more debt may be necessary.
Let`s say you`re underemployed but you secure a better paying job
that requires a commute. It isn`t necessarily a bad idea to take out a
modest car loan so that you can get to that job.
National finances are not the same as your personal checking account,
but a similar rule just might apply, sometimes short-term increases in debt
are necessary for long-term investment in the country.
But for Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the GOP supposed money man
with a plan, debt is always a very bad thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We also have to
stop spending money we don`t have. We`ve got to cut spending, get this
deficit under control, so that we leave our children and grandchildren a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that was Paul Ryan yesterday in Florida talking
about one of his favorite subjects, the national debt. If you don`t love
talking about it, I sure hope you love hearing about it, because by adding
Ryan to the GOP ticket, Mitt Romney guaranteed the debt deficit and
spending will be at the top of the national agenda from now until Election
Still here with me, Dan Dicker, Jamal Simmons, Katon Dawson and Peter
All right. Peter, this is my naive question. If I`m a single mom.
I`m living in Ohio. I have one son. He has -- his school size has gone
from 18 to 14, because they had to cut some teachers because of the budget
Why does the debt, national debt matter to me and my son? Why is
this a bad thing? Because I get why stimulus would make it better, why is
the debt bad?
PETER GOODMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, the debt is bad because the
day is going to come when the people who are paying the bills, a lot of
them foreign central banks, are going to say we doubt your ability to pay
us back and we`re going to demand much higher rates of interest. Something
that a lot of conservatives and libertarians warning, which is just around
the corner for years. It hasn`t happened.
Now, that said, timing is everything. That`s a real fear out there,
and we have to address it, and we have a credible plan to pay back the
bills that we owe.
But the way to do that is not cut ourselves to smithereens and throw
poor people but also middle class people under the bus to pay the tax cuts
for wealthy people. The way to do that is have a credible growth strategy,
to invest in productive areas of the economy, infrastructure spending to
get people back to work, investment in basic research that will give us the
next crop of big winners in the economy, whether it`s renewable energy,
life sciences, what-have-you.
And then over years, pay back the debt through a roaring, growing
economy. And that`s simply not going to happen if we just cut.
HARRIS-PERRY: If we just go through austerity. Dan, let`s take a
look at the scope of the problem because it`s so big, I think it could be
difficult for folks to really get their heads around it. So, I just want
to look at a few numbers so we can get a sense of how big --
DAN DICKER, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Real Nerdland stuff.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, real Nerdland stuff, just so we can see how big
the deficit is at this moment and how big it`s been in the past. Let`s
take a look at that.
What do we have? We`ve got numbers. There they are.
OK. So, our fiscal year through this year, in July of 2012, is $974
billion with a "B." Now, talk to me -- let`s see what that looks like.
Again, we had interest on national debt which is the other piece of what I
want you to talk about a bit -- $53 billion, up to $104 billion back in
And then we have at least one more here. Again, more on the interest
on the national debt. That`s part of that tick, tick, tick, tick, tick,
tick, ticking occurring on numbers behind us.
So, these are numbers that come up in the trillions. What does that
mean? Like in a very real way, how big is that compared to how big it`s
been relative to the past?
DICKER: OK. Now, we never had a bigger debt as opposed to the last
time we had a debt larger than this, which is now about 100 percent GDP,
just after the end of World War II, obviously a different time. That`s
what makes it scary number one.
But part of what Peter was talking about applies here when you talk
about interest payments on this debt because that is an enormous part,
that`s about $220 billion in our yearly budget just servicing the debt, the
interest on the debt we have so far.
That`s a big piece of $1.3 trillion budget and is expected if the
bond vigilantes show up, which they haven`t yet. I assume they will. They
show up in places where you have done austerity. Here they haven`t. We
have a ten-year rate at 1.8 percent, which is basically free money. In any
event, when they show up if they do show up, that`s what balloons, that
payment on the interest that we have, and then we don`t have any money for
anybody -- whether it`s tax cuts or the poor or food stamps or Medicaid or
Medicare or building the bridge or what have you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I hear you, right? It sounds like this long-term
thing that is out there. The possibility of these folks coming in, the
sense of a reasonable plan, to our credit ratings drops, not so much of
something we did financially, but it took us so long to raise the debt
ceiling, so we look like a bunch of children incapable of creating a plan.
But, Jamal, but the fact is, that we have actually seen -- this debt
is old. Alexander Hamilton first set up the debt. And as bad as it got,
it got much better, and then Reagan ballooned it. And then we have a
surplus with Clinton.
I mean, is this partly about chilling out, making a plan, moving
forward, being reasonable, not freaking out about the deficit?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We`ve got to make a plan.
Let`s have real talk there for a second. We can`t fix this deficit problem
if we don`t have economic growth. And the way to get economic growth, I
think most people recognize the government has to play.
If you look at our jobs numbers every month, we grow in the private
sector every month. And when we lose jobs out of the public sector every
month, and especially when you`re talking about groups like African-
Americans, 21 percent of African-Americans work in a state, federal, or
local government agency.
So, if we want to attack 14 percent of unemployment in the African-
American community, we can`t do that by cutting government spending and
cutting those jobs out. That`s a real problem for real people here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And what these government jobs are. I mean,
the black middle class comes from postal workers and teachers. When you
hear the language of government workers, not sure what we think that is,
like it`s some sort of black and white Marxist, you know, film or
These are teachers and postal workers -- look, and clearly we have
Paul Ryan saying 10 years ago, we need stimulus, we need the government to
play in increasing expenditures in order to grow the economy. Everybody
thinks the best deficit reduction plan are more people working and paying
taxes on their income.
How do you get away from that to where Ryan is now, which is
basically on austerity?
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Dan just made -- he gave us the
information for the great Republican case. It is about the economy.
DICKER: I didn`t mean to do that, by the way.
SIMMONS: And Mitt Romney made it about Medicare.
DAWSON: At the end of the day -- and that`s because the president`s
team won last week, because we`re not talking about what we`re talking
about this morning. The fact is that we`re borrowing 40 cents out of every
dollar of foreign countries, as you just said, foreign banks.
We`re spending too much money. The people at home get it -- they
can`t go barrow no more money. They`re cap. I mean, they can`t access
credit, so why should our government --
DICKER: We have a printing press. Print it up.
GOODMAN: In the short-term, that`s what we they`d to do.
DAWSON: Five years ago, the polling said, OK, we got plenty. But
now, I don`t believe that any more. There is a debt that somebody has got
to pay. Somebody has got to pay it.
Either we grow the economy -- either we grow the economy -- here is
the electoral politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like where you are going, Peter.
GOODMAN: If your kid comes to you and said, mommy, daddy, I want to
borrow $100,000. First, what do you say what do you spend the money on?
Are you going to sit around and play ex-pots (ph) and drink Mountain Dew
for the next 10 years, maybe take a trip, the answer is absolutely no. If
the answer is, I would like to go an excellent university and put myself
into a position to have a career, pay that debt that back, maybe take care
of you when are you old, the answer is empathically yes.
That`s what we have to do. We have a printing press. The difference
between us and Europe is Europe refuses to use the printing press they
could use to create a credible growth strategy and bail out countries --
DAWSON: I would say Europe turned it on and has worn it out. I
mean, they worn the printing press out.
DICKER: As far as the printing press being the ultimate solution to
all this, we need to fin something that has an approximation that will
stimulate growth obviously, but what the Republicans, in fact, put forward
in order to stimulate growth does not, in fact, stimulate growth. That`s
All it does is it continues to concentrate wealth to the upper 1
percent. Not even the 1 percent, the .01 of the 1 percent. This has been
the problem in terms of upward mobility, not just for poor people, but
middle class people, because there`s only so much wealth to go around. As
we continue to move all the wealth upward, there is less room for people in
the middle making $20,000, $80,000, $120,000 to give a better life to their
kids than themselves.
And that`s what`s being lost here on the Ryan plan. People don`t
want to talk about, there is a trouble not in the lower class, which is
entirely being thrown your honor the bus. We know that. But in the middle
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s almost like --
DICKER: -- talking about people in the middle class, it`s totally
false. They are the ones that will get screwed the worst.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, for the bottom, it`s gone from bad to abysmal.
But now, we`re also talking about in the middle.
DICKER: The only one who gets help is Romney for example, as you saw
where we figured out under this plan, he gets to pay 0.6 percent in terms
SIMMONS: There was a Kaiser Family Foundation poll last week that
said, you know, Democrats and independents put the deficit in the third
most important thing to focus on. Only Republicans think that debt and
deficit is the number one issue in the election.
So, who is Romney talking to? Is this a base turnout strategy to get
people to focus on this? And is that why he picked Ryan? Otherwise, it
really doesn`t make any sense.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate it and I also appreciate that we come
back to the language of kids, because that`s what we`re in part talking
about. We can`t talk about the debt without people consistently talking
about what are we doing to our future and to our kids? So, that is going
to continue to be our focus.
I thank you to Dan Dicker and Jamal Simmons, Katon Dawson and Peter
And coming up, more on our kids -- talk about an emergency -- the way
forward for public education goes to this table, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s not kid ourselves.
We`re in the midst of a national education emergency. The only reason we
don`t hear more about it, is because our economic troubles have taken the
national attention away from the classroom. But if unemployment is where
it should be and home values were going up, there is no question that the
crisis in American education would be the great cause of this campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If this year were a different year, then the politics
would pretty obviously be different. So, Mr. Romney who has called for
drastic reductions to the Department of Education I think got lucky this
year, all economy, all the time. Since the Republican double-R team
wouldn`t be getting an easy A out of their nonexistent education bona
For example, little R, Paul Ryan, penned a federal budget plan that
slashes key areas of education funding. To start, the Ryan budget, if cuts
are distributed evenly, eliminates discretionary spending for the Title I
education grant by $2.7 billion. That means 38,000 teachers and aides
could be out of their jobs. And Ryan put his stamp of approval on slashing
Pell grant for the family who defend on those loans to achieve higher
education -- education first doesn`t seem to be the main message.
Mr. Romney`s lip service is right about one thing. Education is the
single most important bridge to social mobility in this country. There are
simply no way forward without a robust public education system.
But are we even clear about what the way forward should consist of?
What does a good education system mean today? Are the days of a well-
rounded critical thinking skills based education behind us in favor of tech
Here with me to consider the way forward for public education is
Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania professor. Derrell Bradford,
executive director of Better Education for Kids. Lila Leff, who`s been
here before. She`s an education reform advocate and co-chair of the
Chicago Consortium for School Research. And Ileana Jimensez,
ILEANA JIMENEZ, FEMINISTTEACHER.COM: Jimenez.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jimenez. A high school English teacher and founder of
FeministTeacher.com and also a quite an active, excited tweeter. I`ve been
following in part of your tweets about your excitement about being on the
I`m excited to have you on the show, in part because you teach
feminism, not too college students, but to kids, to young people. And I`m
thinking, that sounds to me like the kind of critical thinking that I
typically think of, constitutes good education. But if I`m the I.T.
training, tech, you know, sort of person, I say, well, that feminism, but
what is that going to mean when it`s time to get a job in the I.T. sector?
What is a good education?
JIMENEZ: Well, you mentioned that I teach feminism to high school
students. I actually think it`s one of the most successful courses I
teach, and the reason why it`s because it`s completely interdisciplinary.
I`m trained as a literature major. I have masters` degree in
English. I`ve been teaching English for 15 years.
But the reason why that woman`s study course is very successful is
because I don`t just teach literature. I teach literature, history,
activism, media, blogging, art history, all of those different disciplines
are coming together, converging for students so they can make connections
in very innovative, creative, collaborative ways.
So, for example, the tech person who might question, why are you
teaching feminism? I teach media and blogging. I teach media literacy. I
ask them to look at issues of sexism, racism, homophobia in the media. And
I say to them, look, what are the ways in which we can use the lens of
feminism, which for me is social justice feminism, intersectional feminism,
looking at all of the different ways in which real issues that students
face every single day actually can be understood through that lens.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet, I can feel like I hear the 140 characters around
me right at this point, saying, I`m sorry, you know, my kid needs to learn
to read. We have to pass those high-stakes tests.
So I love this, but then I`m wondering, is this me in my ultimate
elitist academic chair loving this? Or is this what a good education is?
Or is there something else? What is a good education at this point?
LILA LEFF, EDUCATION REFORM ADVOCATE: It`s really important to look
at this from a multimodality perspective. The reality, education is being
charged with something it`s never been charged with before -- preparing
people for jobs that don`t yet exist. So, we`ve never asked education to
do that before. So, that`s obviously -- it`s a complicated task.
Now, what we do know to be true is that there are a variety of things
that students need to have to be successful. And some of them certainly
include the basic skills. But the small amount of content that students
used to need to know and sort of be able to report back to be qualified to
enter entry level jobs, that`s never coming back.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s because jobs are gone, because jobs no longer
exist in that way.
LEFF: Right. And so, what students need to do now is to be able to
enter act with information to gather information when they need it, to sort
through it, to analyze it, to apply it in different contexts and very
quickly to integrate things both within their own minds and also through
their ability to collaborate with other people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And is this what our schools are doing?
ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I agree with what you`re
saying. But the one thing I have found in the classroom is that what
happens is that they know how to get the information, is everything coming
off from Wikipedia and the web. But they don`t know how to discern what is
good information from bad.
LEFF: Right, which is great education.
BUTLER: And that`s part of the education. In this is where I`m
like, you can`t just teach to the task. You can`t do this other stuff.
You have to do something that encompasses a lot of different things
because they don`t have reasoning skills. They don`t have analytical
skills. They don`t have critical thinking skills.
When some students get to me, you know, whenever luck they get to me
by the time they get to the university, you know, it turns out they can`t
write their way out of a paper bag. You cannot make a sentence that makes
sense. And I`m like what did you spend the last 12 years doing? What did
they have you doing?
HARRIS-PERRY: And they are not too sure making it to an elite
BUTLER: Second tier, first tier, and every level, I have found there
is always a student or two who has had a tremendous amount of problem. So,
I really am thinking about the ways in which we don`t have enough people in
the classrooms to be able to deal with the students that are there, because
there`s all these cutbacks. And how are we supposed to deal with American
exceptionalism if our students, our next generation is not exceptional?
DERRELL BRADFORD, BETTER EDUCATION FOR KIDS: So this is a
complicated set of questions --
BRADFORD: -- on one side just talking about whether or not testing
should be the weight of testing. I think, you know, no one believes
testing should be the end all, be all.
But I think we need some objective way to know whether or not kids
got the message, right? And in many places, I think it`s important for
people to know, too, we`re testing the floor. It`s not like we have an
unusual high bar very specifically narrow.
We normally have a low one. And the fact that we have a focus on the
low one really says more about what`s happening to kids is than it says
about the role of testing in all of this.
The other part of this, too, if you ever get a chance, this video you
can watch online, that talks about the DNA of American public education
being grown in the industrial era, right? So we batch kids based on how
old they are, not what they know. These bells and whistles are going off
all over the place.
And that thing has failed to recognize the challenge of the rest of
the world. So, right now, from technology standpoint, from economic
standpoint, all of the other ways, we have the Sputnik events happening, we
don`t have a Sputnik type response with cool schools at large.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Sort of our vision of the little red school
house, the bells that go off that tell you to go to the next thing, the
rogue testing that you`re doing makes sense for a version of education that
was in the industrial era for certain kinds of jobs but may not so much
We have much, much more to say. Our problems are not going away yet.
But I do want you to imagine what it means to be a teacher in a school
where eight students have been shot and killed in one year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDEN OF THE UNITED STATES: There is nothing more
important to our country`s future than the education we give our kids and
there`s no one more important to that education than the person in front of
the classroom. Teachers matter, most work tirelessly with modest pay,
sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies, just to make a
difference. They give interest for our kids, and in return, we should
invest in them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In time for back to school, the president`s weekly
address focused entirely on education yesterday. And in it, he underscored
the need to support teachers in their heroic work in the classroom. But if
teaching wasn`t already a challenging job, imagine you are a teacher in a
school where eight students shot in a single year. Imagine trying to teach
algebra to students who have to come to school not as a place for learning,
but rather as a safe haven from street violence.
Recently, I met a group of educators in Chicago, facing just that.
And while there, I dropped in on UMUJA University, an annual conference
where teachers to learn how to better connect with their students own
experience, helping them to become better advocates and to create the best
environment they can.
There, I spoke with Jim Dorrell, a teacher in Marshall High School on
the west side of Chicago, and Marcus Prewitt, a counselor at Harper High
School in Inglewood. I asked them how in a city where the murder rate
soared 60 percent in the first three months of this year, when students
lost to gun violence on the street, how they and their students are able to
walk through the doors each day.
MARCUS PREWITT, COUNSELOR, HARPER HIGH SCHOOL: Always resort back
to, OK, we still have kids coming in this building daily, daily. If they
can do it, so can I? If I struggle or trip, I try to do it, then and I go
back to some of my old teaching from my grandmother and resort to my
spiritual side. Honestly, that`s how we keep going.
JIM DORRELL, TEACHER, MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL: It`s amazing they can do
it some of them. The obstacles are tremendous. We have a lot of homeless
kids in our schools. There`s a lot of gang violence. There`s a lot of
drug abuse in the community.
Most of them live well below the poverty line. Some are coming to
school hungry. Making on time and finishing the day with those sorts of
obstacles, the resiliency is amazing.
HARRIS-PERRY: An accomplishment. I want to pause, to come to school
on time, make it through the day, that in and of itself is an
accomplishment because of how many challenges they are facing.
DORRELL: They are resilient. I don`t know if I could do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the day after a student has been lost in your
community, what do you hear from students?
PREWITT: A day after a loss. A lot of students come to school.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting.
PREWITT: They are reaching out. We try to wrap our arms around them
as if they are our own.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there one student in particular or maybe a couple
of students, where you are like these are the stories I most remember?
DORRELL: I coached a debate team. Some kids rough on the exterior,
I bring them into the debate team, they learn to argue in a productive way
as opposed to just getting in someone`s face, you know, they need that.
They need to know how to express themselves in a professional way. But
they are still very tenacious.
PREWITT: Even as a counselor, I`m more than that to a lot of these
students. I find myself purchasing shoes, giving money for bus cards,
buying food. Items they may need. So I know that in order for these
students to be successful, I really have to step outside of the box, just a
little bit, to help provide the support that they need, so that they can be
successful in life.
HARRIS-PERRY: With me is Anthea Butler of the University of
Pennsylvania. Dorrell Bradford, executive director of Better Education for
Kids, Lila Leff, creator of UMOJA University, and feminist teacher, Ileana
Jimenez. I`m sorry, I keep mispronouncing your last name.
Throughout -- are we talking enough about what teachers need in order
to be this kind of advocate for kids?
BRADFORD: This is sort of the second revolution in a discussion
about modernizing and updating the education system of America for the 21st
century, which is the job and the weight of the job that we`re asking
classroom teachers to do, has radically changed in the last 15 or 20 years.
You know, we need to you be a mom, we need you to be a dad, we need
you to be, you know, sort of a police officer in some instances and realize
you are arguably the most important person that this child will ever see
and you are helping that child. You are on the front lines of that child`s
future. That`s not what the job used to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`d like to pay you less, and take away your
union organizing rights and maybe ask you to do it like at 21 years old.
BRADFORD: So, I don`t -- I think there`s a big sort of split on
this. I don`t think any -- and I don`t know anyone who doesn`t want to pay
great teachers more and who doesn`t understand this. I think there`s sort
of anxiety on the organizing side, comes out of the fact that we are told
we have to pay them all the same, based on whatever their ability is and
based on how long they have served, which are not reliable predictors of
excellence, and we`re told that if we have to downsize for some reason, we
can`t do it based on ability at all, we just have to do it based on how
long you have been there.
So, there is a huge dissonance on how we identify and raise up
teachers who are excellent. That seems like it comes out of the corporate
space now. But the -- the other side of that is that like we can`t treat
you any differently. We can`t acknowledge that you are better than anyone
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ileana, as a teacher in the classroom, this right?
Do we basically all feel the same way about teachers, we just have
different opinions about unions? Or simply not doing enough to support
teachers who are doing this kind of work to support kids?
JIMENEZ: Well, first of all, in my 15 years of being a teacher,
teachers are the first responders to all of the issues that kids face every
single day. So if -- in my 15 years, I`ve seen suicide attempts,
depression, cutting, all the behaviors that say that kids are not feeling
safe at school. They may not be feeling safe at home. They may not be
feeling safe on the street.
So, we are the first ones to respond to all of those issues, whether
it`s in the classroom, or in a private meeting with the student. It`s
something they write when they hand in an assignment perhaps. We see all
of that, and, obviously we always transfer over students we feel very
concerned about to appropriate school administrators, school counselors, we
are the first line of defense.
And I think that one of the things that I`m very alarmed about is the
fact that the Romney/Ryan ticket does not support the Safe Schools
Improvement Act and that the Student Nondiscrimination Act. Both of those
acts actually protect students against bullying and harassment in schools.
And if we don`t have the right resources and tools and skills for
teachers and students to address bullying and harassment in school, it will
escalate to other things like violence, just as the segment said earlier.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things, Lila, that was interesting to me in
talking to these teachers, was that, you know, you can see, you can
literally experience them as amazing teachers and counselors in that
conversation. But part of how I experience that in particular is this
notion that I think these students who I see, who are pugnacious, who are
fighting and I say, you are a debater, right? And also him saying, hey,
you know, these kids are going through so much, just making it through the
day is a big deal.
How do we capture that kind of quality in a teacher, but also that
kind of a quality in a kid that`s not just testing and also not just length
of time on the job? What are the reasonable measures for quality of kids
and students? And teachers. I`m sorry.
LEFF: I think first of all, looking at nations that are doing this
right, that are getting to us places where there are quality teachers and
quality processes that can be institutionalize to move people into a
profession and to keep that growing and thriving. We`re simply failing at
So, some of it is backing up and just saying what are the things we
need to put into place that, one, incent people to come into this field.
Who on earth -- people don`t want to stay in it, let alone come into it
But then, two, what`s the kind of ongoing learning mechanisms?
So, people come to teaching ready to learn and ready to be good at
this job. And what happens, most of them leave the field within five
years. Those who stay don`t feel they continue to be developed in a way
that allows them to thrive unless they are an exception.
So, right now, we have created a system where our schools are not
really -- they don`t have a learning mechanism to them. They are not
learning organizations. Thriving organizations in our country learn,
reflect, refine. That`s not that happens in our schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the organization itself.
HARRIS-PERRY: The school actually saying, it`s not just learning for
students, but learning for the schools and institutions.
LEFF: They don`t have to part of a learning community where they are
looking at their practice, or other people looking at their practice.
American teachers have less time to plan and reflect in meaningful ways
than almost any other nation that`s really driving educationally.
And the other thing just in terms of what students need in the kind
of support they need, I think it`s really important to look at the idea of
first responder, and that we are asking teachers in our highest needed
communities to be more than simply straight --
HARRIS-PERRY: And I love that. We`ll stay right on that. As soon
as we come back, we`re going to talk about first responder who`s have lost
their jobs, how many have lost them in just the last month alone. We`ll
stay right on the topic.
HARRIS-PERRY: A new report from the White House Council of Economic
Advisers released yesterday shows that since the end of the recession,
300,000 education jobs lost, 7,000 teachers, school aides and support
staff, have lost their jobs just in the last month.
And for the most part, these are not teachers fired for poor
performance, like Sacramento City, 6th grade teacher Michelle Apperson
(ph). This past year, Apperson became one of 400 school teachers given
pink slips in the city, just after she was awarded teacher of the year by
the same school district, a district that cut teaching jobs in order to
make up for budget shortfalls.
In a system where some blame teacher unions for the last hired/first
fired standard and others ask why cities insist on balancing local budgets
on the backs of school kids, I have just one question: who are we kidding
if we think we can build a first class country with a third rate system of
I`m back with Anthea Butler, Derrell, Bradford, Lila Leff and Ileana
Jimenez. Why am I doing this? Perhaps I needed more Spanish in my public
And yet I am -- so here I am. I`m advocate of public education. I
am the kid of a teacher. I am myself a teacher in many ways.
I see something like that and I say that is nuts. We ought to have
teachers supported, based on what they do. On the other hand, I know that
workers of all kinds do better when they have unions.
How do we give parents the ability to be judged on their merits, but
on the other hand, the ability to be workers who can organize for their
BRADFORD: I think we`ve done some of this in New Jersey recently.
We passed a tenure reform law that we collaborated with the big unions to
get to a compromise. And in the end, what it does it prioritizes student
learning, and how we determine whether or not people are effective. And
effectiveness gives you tenure and a whole bunch of other stuff there.
What we got to was a situation where everyone knew we had a 100-year-
old tenure law. Everyone knew it was horribly broken. Everyone wanted to
change it. And what came out from it was an acknowledgment from the union
and from the reform community that there are quantifiable ways to look at
excellence. And that we ought to prioritize that over time served.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and I hear you, right? It feels like there is a
quantifiable way. But there`s something missing in this.
BUTLER: I think what`s missing is the part of that, that way in
which -- you talked about this organizational piece. I think it`s really
important. How do you re-learn how to do something?
I don`t want to penalize someone in the system a long time who`s been
able to, you know, withstand all of the things that happened in the
classroom, if you are in the classroom like, say, Chicago, where it`s very
difficult. You have to hold some things together, right?
But on the same time, you want to reward people doing good things.
How do you reward them? Are they reward who makes on the test? What are
So, it`s like how do you measure it? The measurement, the benchmark,
that all of the things we talked about has to be different.
The second thing is that I really I bring up the whole issue for
profit. And what is happening in Philadelphia right now is ridiculous,
moving to this charter system, and some of these charter systems, they`re
not that good, OK? Some of this is just about graft and malfeasance.
So, what you have is a public system that`s being he eroded by this
other system that`s supposed to be for profit. And even in the for-profit
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the one we just don`t -- I need another three
hours. I don`t think we`ll give me "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" times.
LEFF: That`s really a place where we have some disagreement --
HARRIS-PERRY: About what constitutes excellence?
LEFF: About what constitutes excellence for students and what
constitutes excellence for teachers, this idea of objective standard and
sort of testing being thrown around as a blanket term, and I just want to
push on that a little bit, because all tests not created equal and, in fact
there, are -- it`s really important for to us push below the surface and
say testing is a very expensive business, and to act like the only way for
us to measure student or teacher performance is based on the test without
sort of determining whether or not tests are of quality.
HARRIS-PERRY: And because it`s expensive, it`s also profit making
LEFF: Right, absolutely. So we`ve certainly spent a tremendous
amount of money as opposed to more authentic assessments, which are seen as
very subjective. But in fact demonstrating our knowledge and our learning
is really -- has all the principles of objective assessment.
BUTLER: You have these tests that are skewed a certain kind of way,
where other people can`t get into them. This is the game everybody played
with the SATs, the ACTs and all the rest of these tests, right? There are
other ways to measure.
BUTLER: But what you`re saying is, is that the end result of this
stuff with No Child Left Behind, like everybody has been left behind in
certain kinds of ways.
LEFF: I want to go back to the testing to say we can have a
conversation that allows for the new ones, to saying tests have some
benefit, one is they predict our ability to do well in other tests. So,
the SAT does predict our ability to get into college. That just for
entrance is valuable.
But, in fact, the predictor of lifetime earnings in college
graduation is your GPA, and that`s true whether it`s really tough school on
the west side of Chicago or --
HARRIS-PERRY: And deeply troubling, predict for of act is actually
your parents` income.
All right. We have so much more. You are just getting the charter
thing that makes me want to just talk more about it. But what we are going
to do is make sure that some young folks also get to have a voice.
So, Anthea and Derrell, you have to come back, as you and I are going
to have a charter fight at some point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Unfortunately, it`s true. You all (ph) are winning.
And when we come back, we are going to hear from some students
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back.
We`re discussing the state of our national education system, but we
simply cannot talk about education without talking to the very young people
that this affects.
Joining us now, Natasha Adams of Girls for Gender Equity and a
student at the City College of New York and Michael Gellman, graduate of
Bronx high school. High school of science and soon to be a student at
Harvard University in 2013.
Still with me here, Lila Leff and Ileana Jimenez.
OK, folks, Michael, you are taking a gap here.
MICHAEL GELLMAN, INCOMING FRESHMAN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me why.
GELLMAN: I`m doing a gap year for a number of reasons, the most
important reason is to gain the experiential learning that I don`t think I
got in high school. I went to a very academically rigorous high school
that push A.P.s, the national A.P. program. I took 12 A.P.s, which is
definitely an extreme.
I spent so much time reading and studying and taking tests, I felt
like in order to make the most of my time in college, I need to step away
from the academic treadmill and I need to go out and experience living by
myself, living in a new place, going to Guatemala and Nicaragua and doing
Spanish immersion and sort of those works (ph).
HARRIS-PERRY: You think of education as something broader than
what`s happening and can even be assessed on test, which you obviously have
done very well academically if you are heading to Harvard.
And your work in terms of girl and gender equity also suggest to me
you have a little broad definition of what constitutes a good education.
NATASHA ADAMS, CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK STUDENT: Right. For me, my
education experience was different. I felt like I wasn`t being challenged
enough in school. And they weren`t really teaching us the emotional
component and teaching us civic component, of how to be a good citizen and
what it meant to be a student.
So I took a step back from my education process and I began being
heavily involved in community organizing and social justice work, because I
felt like that was my passion and that was where I was being nurtured the
most emotionally and where I felt my voice was needed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there a teacher that would allow to you say this is
what a good teacher is, this helped to turn me on to learning.
GELLMAN: I had a teacher of Science, Mrs. Goodman who taught my A.P.
European history class and advocated for having two extra periods per day
or per week rather. Instead of five, would you have seven periods and she
would use those not to cover what was in the textbook, what was in the
college syllabus, but look at art and music and culture of this, and it was
-- that was an amazing experience.
And we wrote -- I wrote a 20-page term paper for her that was me set
in a salon in Paris, in the time of the enlightenment, meeting all of the
greats, and inserting myself into the conversation. I read letters between
Catherine the great and Voltaire, I learned about Voltaire`s conflicts and
brought that out in this fictional world, but it was more substantial
research I had done for that paper than I had done for any other cookie
HARRIS-PERRY: Who is your great teacher? Who helped to push to you
feel like I`m not being sufficiently challenged, that challenged you
ADAMS: Well, when I was at middle high school, I had a creative
writing teacher, Sharon Lesfater (ph). And I love her because during my
high school process I was -- I dealt with anxiety and felt like I was
another face in the room. I didn`t really feel like I had a presence in
And she really challenged me to explore creative writing and think
critically about my community and what it really meant to be someone who
was a social -- who fought for social justice and passionate about all of
these community needs. And I -- I really love it, because it wasn`t me
just sitting down, taking a test, or just reading another book. It was
just -- you know, she really made an effort.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what I hear from both of you it`s about something
more than just testing. It`s about something broader. It`s something
bigger than teachers bring.
On a programming note: on September 23rd, NBC News, and platforms
including MSNBC, will launch the third Annual Education Nation Week. And
as you can tell, we have a lot no say. National summit held at the New
York Public Library. And you can get more information online at
My footnote is coming up in just a moment.
But, first, it`s time of a preview "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" with
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hey, Melissa Harris-Perry. How are you
"Fortune" magazine sitting down with Mitt Romney with tough
questions, everything from gun control, tax cuts, to his plan to fix the
economy. I`ve got the reporter who got those answers.
And WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange steps out of hiding from the
Ecuadorian embassy in London, while British officials wait outside to kick
him in. I`ll tell you about the standoff there.
Plus, the man who dug that spider hole Saddam Hussein hid in. He
rarely talks but we`re going to hear from one of the few people that he has
shared his story with.
And in office politics, Bravo`s Andy Cohen tells Alex why he was
frustrated with the president on the topic of gay marriage.
Plus, the story fitting for a Sunday perhaps, the battle over songs
with God in the lyrics, like now I lay me down to sleep. Should they be
banned from school music class?
All of and that and lots more at the top of the hour.
Melissa, back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Craig. I appreciate it.
Next, a message for my daughter.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is the start of a new school year. Despite all of
the challenges facing American education, I remain hopelessly romantic
about the vast possibilities inherent of a young person with a sharpened
pencil opening the first page of an empty notebook and beginning. Those
pages are the land of dreams.
Now, my daughter, Parker, begins middle school this week. I asked
her what she feels is the most important part of an education. Here`s what
she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER, MELISSA`S DAUGHTER: I think the most important part of
school is to make mistakes and learn how to fix your mistakes. So, it`s
easier to figure things out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Making mistakes. But having second chances to figure
things out, we owe that to every child. Often we don`t achieve our dreams
by walking a straight line of perfection. We stumble toward them along a
path littered with mistakes.
But what we learn from those mistakes are source of strength,
innovation, work, hope, and achievement for our whole country. The power
of dreams in the face of obstacles was on full display at Chicago`s Navy
Pier this week. Thousands of undocumented young people waited in long
lines to apply for deportation deferrals.
After the U.S. Congress repeatedly refused to pass the DREAM Act,
which would have given undocumented legal status, President Obama acted.
On June 15th, his administration offered undocumented immigrants under 31
who came to the U.S. as children, a two-year reprieve, and a pathway for
legal study and work, if not the citizenship.
Young people determined to continue the pursuit of American dreams
waited for hours in line in every major American city, despite the
continuing risks, they came out of the shadows.
Now, I borrow my philosophy of education from the author of "The
Little Prince." "If you want to build a ship, don`t drum up people
together to collect wood and don`t assign them tasks and work. But,
rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
As the school year begins, we who are teachers and parents, neighbors
and citizens, can help our nation`s young people by reminding to articulate
the endless immensity of their own dreams. Together, we can build the ship
to sail toward them.
Go to our blog MHPshow.com and share your dreams or the dreams of
young people in your life for this school year.
That`s our show for the day. Thank you to Natasha, Michael, Lila and
Ileana for sticking around.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you next Saturday,
10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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