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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Sunday show

April 14, 2013
Guests: Josh Barro; Dean Baker; Carmen Wong Ulrich; Dorie Clark; Lisa Cook;
Amy Palmer, Mauricio Claver-Coron, Lisandro Perez, Sujatha Fernandez,
Soffiya Elijah, Majorah Carter, Michelle Major

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question.

What is if the key to a woman making it in business today?

Plus, the complicated controversy over Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba.

And an intimate portrait of the most powerful sister combo in tennis.

But first, the tax man cometh. But for whom does he come?

Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

Grumble, grumble, boo his, it is tax time. Listen, I hear you. I don`t
like doing my taxes. Writing that check to the IRS or even seeing how much
I already paid is just. And whether you are the kind of taxpayer who
shakes her fist at the heavens while yelling about the man or you just
quietly tear your hair out in a late night turbo tax session that is
probably going to happen tonight. We`re all participating in that annual
American ritual. I wonder, though, what really gets us down about tax

So, I started asking, is there any bill that you enjoy paying?

Look. For some of us, that down payment on a new house or even the monthly
mortgage check is a point of pride. There`s a sense of self-satisfaction
in being able to meet that debit which finances your home and hearth.

Maybe for others, buying those back to school clothes and notebooks for
your kids is the kind of damage that you happily do to your wallet or for
the luckier among us, maybe even paying that preschool tuition that is
literally an investment in the future, one that many college graduates have
learned cannot be quantified in dollars and cents as much as an

And in fact, speaking about that, why I can`t say that I love paying my
student loans and yes, I am still paying my student loans, I don`t actually
mind it that much. Because the years I spent in college and graduate
school are the most important investment I`ve ever made.

And of course, giving what we can to charity and to nonprofits actually
feels pretty darn good. I mean, knowing that your hard earned dollars are
going to something you choose to a good cause, that can be a unique
pleasure and we don`t mind paying for those things.

So, maybe we can make taxes a bit more like giving to charity. Or at least
like paying the light bill. Because in a certain way, that`s exactly what
it is. Maintaining those collective utilities.

As article one, section eight, clause one, known as I`m not kidding. The
taxing and spending clause of the constitution. What it says is the
Congress will shall the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, in posts
and excises to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general
welfare of the United States. It`s that general welfare part that taxes
are about. And it is all around us.

The roads and bridges that we cross daily, the national guards that comes
to our rescue at homes against the army abroad. The public school teachers
that educate our children. And while your tax dollars are at work
constantly, it can sometimes feel like our dollars are getting eaten by a
system? In fact the average America believes that the federal government
wastes 51 percent of every dollar it spends.

So, perhaps a lot of this frustration is coming from empirical evidence of
the disrepair and waste that you see around you. But, maybe it is also the
mere feeling of frustration and lack of good information. There is no way
around it. Taxes are complicated. So complicated that the majority of us
aren`t even doing our own taxes these days, preferring to farm them out to
tax preparation or somebody else. I mean, hey, if you better bet, I am not
doing my own taxes.

But new research says it doesn`t have to be this way. We can in fact,
really fall in love with the form 1040. With a little bit of rebrand taxes
can be adorable almost. "The Boston Globe" noted this week. A recently
published research paper by two law school professors summed their findings
this way.

If taxpayers were less scarred by the process, they would be less likely to
seek out loopholes, put their money in tax shelters or simply try to cheat.
And if Americans really understood where their tax dollars went, we might
all have a better appreciation for a relationship to the government.

But hey, that sounds like a good thing. So when you hear about President
Obama proposing nearly $60 billion in new tax revenue over the next ten
years as part of his 2014 federal budget, we should all just jump for joy.
And if you still hate it, at least you could keep your vigilant self
focused on how your government spends your money.

At my table my morning is personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich,
president of Alta wealth management who must also just speaker and be
sleepy on the day before tax day. Dean Baker, co-director of the center
for economic and policy research. Lisa Cook back from yesterday from
Michigan State University. She`s professor of economics and a former
member of President Obama`s council of economic advisers and Josh Barro,
lead writer for the ticker, Bloomberg`s views blog on economics, finance
and politics.

We also have a little bit of something to say to me this week, but we want
Josh at the table, anyway.

In fact Josh, I want to start with you because I feel you had a very
balanced approach to thinking anything about so that sort of how liberals
on the one hand get too anxious about the idea of tax cuts but how
conservatives sometimes want to use tax cuts to solve everything.

JOSH BARRO, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Right. Well, I think the Republican party`s
economic message for 30-plus years has been so focused on the idea that
taxes drag down the economy and in order to create jobs and prosperity, we
need to cut tax rates. And they have been overly focused on that and I
think there has been over reaction on the left, to sort of talk about taxes
like they don`t affect the economy at all and you can collect any taxes you
feel like and people will work because they love to or don`t feel they need
to anyway.


BARRO: And really, I think what you need is a balanced idea on that. And
I think where we are right now where you have top federal tax rates around
40 percent, I think that`s certainly conducive to a healthy and strong
growing economy. That`s what we had in the 1990s. But think we have seen
like the obituaries of Margaret Thatcher this week, so much condemnation of
her from the left.

When she came in Britain, the top income tax was 83 percent. It was
really way too high. And so, I think we had a good policy shift over the
last 30 years bringing those rates down into this range, around 40 or 50 or
35, wherever they are. I think that`s appropriate. But I think we need to
not lose sight of the fact that taxes affect incentives. And when you tax
more of something, you get less of it.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, part of what you`re talking about is etiology search.
When you bring up Thatcher, that sense up what we think taxes are doing in
terms of either incentivizing or dis-incentivizing work or
entrepreneurship. But, I was I was trying to make a claim that part of
what goes through our angst of taxes is we feel we don`t know where they go
or misinformation about it.

Dean, where is it exactly that Americans think their tax dollars go?

remarkable -- I actually amazed there is so much report for the system as
there is getting more people think half the money is going and the people
think half the money is going to welfare and the other half to foreign aid.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, nothing like half.

BAKER: That`s right. You mean, the main welfare program, if you want to
use that term, TANF, that is about half of one percent of the budget. And
you could through in other programs, you really hard-pressed to get over
five percent. And you know, frankly, you know again, if I thought 30 or 40
percent was going to these programs, you don`t have much to show for them.

And you know, it is unfortunate. And I blame media here to a great extent
because you get ritual is particular reporting. In your beginning, you
were talking about 60 billion in taxes. How many in the audience does that
mean anything to. If you said x percent of the budget, he wants to raise
taxes by half of one percent. I`m not sure it`s the right number. Say
it`s half of one percent. I`m not sure it is the right number, but let`s
say it is half of one percent. Most of your audience is getting know what
that means. I heard this from the reporters and it was time.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So the raw number itself isn`t meaningful and
proportion. And I just wanted to show there`s a terrific book called the
submerged state in which the author asks people, do you benefit from
government resources, the vast majority say no, absolutely not. I do not
benefit from government programs.

And I know that is bit hard to see. But, what you will see is that upward
of 60 percent, in fact get a mortgage interest deduction or they take the
whole lifetime tax credit or they have student loans or Social Security or
they have Pell grants or they have GI bill or maybe their kids go to Head
start. All of those, my friends, are government programs.

politicians into this. You know that what they do is they take taxes as a
point to get people personally involved and feel personally tied to issues.
For example, big bird and PBS or the national endowment for the arts saying
look where your tax dollars are going. They are not even dollars. It`s a

So, there is real distortion as utilizing taxes the way to get American to
feel enraged about something because they are paying for something. So,
that is why there`s so much talk about welfare states. They`re saying no,
no, no, I don`t pay for this. I don`t take of anything tax-wise because
all of the attention is paid to politicians saying these people are using
your money in the wrong way. And you disagree.

things I do in all of my economics classes is to show where the federal
budget is divided and how it`s divided. Because as Dean was saying, the
first thing they go to if you ask them, where is your money going, where is
the federal budget going? Well, if we just look at foreign aid and if we
just look at welfare, if we cut those, the budget deficit will be closed
and then I show them that chart you just showed and they`re completely

HARRIS-PERRY: And so, it feels like that isn`t irrelevant in that -- when
we start talking about tax policy, we`re talking about politics. So, on
the one hand, there`s this question of if people had a different feeling
about paying their taxes, but it actually impacts the policy makers who
after all have to run for reelection. Is this why we end up with this
impulse towards you never raise taxes in an election year?

ULRICH: That`s why it`s really, really hard to get rid of certain things
like deductions and credits. For example, you saw that home interest
mortgage deduction. You know, granted that it may be fair to get rid of
but I can tell you realtors and bankers and construction. It affects so
many people if that`s piece where to be taken away. So, any time you
change anything tax-wise, you are going to have a whole group of people, a
lot with a lot of money, we are going to be very upset about that and want
that not to happen.

BAKER: Yes. But, the mortgage is just exceptionable because, you know, I
don`t know anyone that would say get rid of it out right. They might want
to make it a credit. The vast majority of people would come out ahead.
But, if someone were to say OK, I`m going to cap it at 400 so it`s 15
percent across the board. Most people come out ahead. But, you are going
to hear, you know, the industry groups say they`re going to take away your
mortgage interest deduction, a lot of people think they`re going to lose

HARRIS-PERRY: But, why we just label it different. What if we call it
section eight for the wealthy which really what it is, right? It`s that --
it is basically a government housing voucher for middle income families
which we made a decision about doing in part because we wanted people to
invest in housing. But, if we called it that, we might have a different

COOK: Very important.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Great point.

Stay right there. We got more on this because I do want to talk a little
about the moral judgments about human behavior through the tax code and
specifically about whether or not we ought to smoke our way towards
preschool when we come back.



skills they need to fill those jobs, we will work with states to make high
quality preschool available to every child in America. And we are going to
pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people.
It`s the right thing to do.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was the president on Wednesday rolling out his budget
plan. And one of the novel items in that plan is the near doubling of the
federal cigarette tax to $1.95 per pack. It has estimated to raise about
$8 million a year over the next decade, and that money will be used to pay
for early childhood education. Just as we call the budget a moral
document, so too is our tax code.

So, Josh, I wanted to ask about this because there are two what I felt we
are very kind of like ethical claims that the president was making. One is
we are going to take smoking, which is bad, and pay for early childhood
education, which is good.

BARRO: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re going to institute the Buffett rule which he
presents as an ethical claim on the fair share.

BARRO: Right. Well, I think both of these are really problematic ways to
finance the federal government. On cigarette taxes, it`s the most
regressive major tax that the government in the United States levy. It is
actually -- it is quite effective in reducing smoking rates.

Now, there is few people to smoke. And it is importantly also causes
people to smoke less. But, a problem that creates is it`s a declining
source of revenue as the cigarette tax works and gets people to quit
smoking, the revenues taper off. And so, you end up saying we are going to
have the cigarette tax to pay for this program. And over time, the
revenues become insufficient to pay for the program.

I also think if something like universal pre-k is of a lot of value, you
ought to be able to make a case for the public that they should be willing
to finance it with a broad based tax. And I think this is a general
problem with the way the president talks about tax where he comes in and
says we`re going to have a major expansion of the federal government. We
are going to create a universal health care entitlement, but somebody else
will pay for it. ninety eight percent of the country should, with the
exception of the cigarette tax, not be responsible for paying any of the
bill for expansions of government.

I think that`s a problematic message if the government is doing good things
for the public as a whole. The public as a whole should be expected to pay
for it.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the kind of World War II notion, right? That, you
know, even if you weren`t on the frontlines, that being part of the war
effort at home meant recycling, it meant conservation, right, that we would
all be part of it. And yet, what we know as a matter of politics, it
hasn`t been very easy to make those kinds of claims even when people want a
good. They are not there going to see an increase in taxes to pay for it.

ULRICH: Well, this is the way to kind of raise taxes by tying it to
morality. Who is going to say no to raising taxes on cigarettes instead of
like you are saying, addressing the problem. That we do -- definitely need
something very, very different for this. And instead of smoking, it could
be toking. Let`s tax marijuana. Let`s make that something. But, you got
to find it some other way.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Legalize marijuana and tax it.


HARRIS-PERRY: That`s -- declining situation. Get some more items in there
to tax.

ULRICH: Well, I think cigarette smoking seems to be morally and you know,
somehow worse than something like that. But, to tie it to that, means it
will go through on both sides.

BAKER: But actually, on this point about people not being willing to pay
taxes for things. It`s interesting, national academy for social insurance
did polling a month or two back where they asked people, would they be
willing to pay higher payroll taxes for Social Security. And
overwhelmingly, people said yes. Across the local spectrum.

And it was really striking, and just have been struck because I`ve raised
this point. I looked at their point and talked with them. It was a very
serious poll. I have raised this conversation, I don`t know how many time,
and people just literally ignore it. I was on a radio show last week
request with several other people. And you know, it about what are we
going to do about Social Security. Somewhere down the road we need to do
something. Raise the cap and higher payroll tax. The other people on the
show said we can`t keep evading the problem. It`s like I hadn`t said

HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, I think this is an interesting one. Because
the payroll tax is the one place where you are sort of -- you know what
that particular tax is paying for, right? So, your overall, they called
them but you are not completely sure.

But, just like property taxes, you are pretty darn clear about what your
property taxes are paying for. With the payroll tax, we know what it`s
paying for, but I feel there`s an obscurity around it. I have to say
coming from a working class household, I didn`t know that high incomes
capped out. Like I didn`t know there was a point at which you stopped
paying payroll taxes. And you know, the first time I ever earned enough,
it was in a November, I was 32 or something. And I was like, you know, my
check is too big. It should be smaller this month.


HARRIS-PERRY: I had no idea that it felt to me like this seemed like the
easiest tax base solution I ever heard. Everybody pay all year.

COOK: Correct. And consistent with that, the Social Security
administration says if we raise the Social Security tax to 7.65 percent, we
will close the gap. So we know that the Social Security trust fund will
top out in 2033 and this will close the fund. And there`s support for
that. So, the backlash is always, well, we`ve got to reform it now. We`ve
got to reform it in a certain way. But, I think it`s going to take a mix
of measures at least.

HARRIS-PERRY: But it is the one place where we see indication of people`s
willingness to pay more in taxes.

COOK: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, let me also ask about this. The notion that we
use taxes to create certain kinds of behaviors or to keep certain kinds of
behaviors from happening, is that a reasonable way to use our tax code or
should we just go to the most simple, with this income at 10 percent, this
income with 30 percent. Is it reasonable to use our tax code as a moral

BARRO: I think it can be reasonable to do that. But we do too much of
that and in the wrong ways. I mean, sometimes it`s the really efficient
way to achieve social changes that we want. For example, a carbon tax is a
very clean and elegant way to reduce carbon emissions that`s a lot more
economically efficient than doing much more specific regulatory approaches
when you try to tell people what specific times they ought to be emitting
carbon where.

But, I think there`s a tendency for the tax code to get politically
captured. And so, you get the mortgage interest deduction that aren`t
really producing greater social efficiency. They re are just producing
benefits for certain incumbent that value the fact that their tax bill is
held down.

BAKER: That`s an incredible waste. Now, if you wonder, my favorite. I
have seen this in partisan employer. The cafeteria plans that are a small
place, but you know, people wanted it. So, we have that in there. The
amount of money, by you know, putting aside saying, you know, 1500 and
2000 a year. The amount of money you save on taxes is so small compared to
the administrative expenses involved in. And verbally, you get people in
the end of the year, they are sitting there with $700 saying what am I
going to do? I know people like go buy glasses. Get a prescription.

ULRICH: What a waste. I stopped doing that when I was an employee, and
not a business owner. You know, I would fill out these forms. And there
was a point where I reached the point and I go, my time is money. This is
not worth my time. It is a really crazy process every year when I talk
about the FSA and all of this and here`s the paperwork. And it just sounds
just so much. So, there`s a point where this is just too much time spent.
There was a great op-ed today, if you calculate the tax code, how much time
we all spend on taxes, by $20 an hour and it comes out to $180 billion a
year that we spend in time, cut that in half, that`s $90 billion that we
spent going through paperwork.

HARRIS-PERRY: (INAUDIBLE). Stay here. Because when we come back, I want
to talk a little bit more about the Social Security thing. That was the
other big news out of the White House this week. And whether or not we are
going to save the safety net with chained CPI when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: The budget plan President Obama presented this week makes
another push toward a grand bargain with an inclusion of an enticement to
Republicans that had so far been off the table in the deficit battle. A
proposal to take a scalpel to Social Security.

His plan would limit the benefits paid to seniors by charging the
calculation for inflation -- changing the calculation for inflation to cut
the growth of monthly Social Security payments in the future.

So instead of tying the increases to the consumer price index, the
president`s budget would change it to a different calculation called
chained CPI. And while his budget exempts the oldest and the poorest of
Social Security recipients, it would cause 65-year-old retirees to lose
more than a thousand dollars a year by the time they reach 85 which far
more of them are now going to reach.

House Republicans for their part, refused to take the bait. But, the plan
has also sparked resistance from within the president`s own party as
progressives launch an organized campaign against the proposal.

So I mean, I know second term presidents are supposed do, touch the third
rail that nobody else can because they will never going to run for election
again. But, this one has been tough.

ULRICH: Why are we picking on old people?

BAKER: Yes, that`s a good question.

ULRICH: Why are we nickel-and-diming the seniors who can`t afford this? A
thousand dollars a year, that`s in paper prescription. For prescription
coverage that`s not covered by the government. Because in retirement, more
than a third of your costs are going to be related to health care.
$200,000 on average for seniors. In their senior lifetime. It`s crazy.

HARRIS-PERRY: And, I mean, with baby boomers being where they are in their
life cycle right now, we know it has got a lot of seniors, if everybody is
going to stop smoking, even more old people, right? And so, we know this
is a huge population and I think part of the conversation has been, what
are we going to do with all of these retirees, this is one answer.

BARRO: Yes, no. It really is outrageous. I think because, you know, the
presumption is that somehow seniors have too much money. And you know,
Josh wrote actually a piece on this a while back.

You know, our retirement system has collapsed. We don`t have the fine
benefits pensions any longer, most people have very little by way of
savings. We know that a lot of people just took a big hit on their homes
with the collapse of the housing bubble. Social security has been the one
pillar that stood up. If anything, we should look to expand it. So, I
mean, this is just, you know, the "Washington Post" loves this. But apart
from the Washington punditry --

HARRIS-PERRY: So, why do it? Why include it in the budget?

COOK: As an economist, this is attractive because of substitution bias.
When you start buying close substitutes, prices change, you want to make
sure that the increases are consistent with actual inflation and actual
inflationary pressure. So in a sense, it`s attractive.

At the same time, I agree with you. Seniors need to keep spending. This
is not a robust recovery. So, any time we`re taking money away from people
who spend money. And that`s what they do. Their incomes aren`t growing
generally. They will -- the economy will suffer. I think we want to be
careful about how we`re undermining spending that could take place --

HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is less of the argument about the seniors and more
of an argument about the ways in which they`re spending on everything from
prescription --

ULRICH: Thinking the same way we all are. That`s the thing. And they
have much less room to make adjustments like we do. The whole don`t buy
the beef, buy the chicken. So much more of their budget are on items they
absolutely need to live, such as prescriptions or aid or health care, all
of them.

BARRO: I think this is an issue where there`s a real elite mass
disconnect. People who are relatively wealthy think of Social Security as
being something that`s a safety net fallback. A small part of your
retirement. In fact, when you look at the assets of a typical near
retirement, middle income household, about half of their assets are accrued
Social Security benefits. It swamps everything else as Dean noted pensions
have gone away. People don`t put much money in their 401(k)`s and invest
badly when they do. People talk about Social Security as being this really
broken system with lots of problems. And it does have a medium term
deficit that needs to be fixed. But it`s healthier than the other two main
pillars of our retirement system.

HARRIS-PERRY: And given that, you know, that the economic recovery, but
even if we look at the evaporation of wealth that occurred for people who
basically ended up people having to eat their retirement accounts, right,
and take all kinds of sort of term bad tax decisions to plug those holes.
If you were 50 when this all started happening, you can`t make that back

BAKER: We`ve done analysis of that. We`ve come to pretty much the same
conclusion. You look at the co-board (ph), 55 to 64, near retirees, median
wealth, including the equity in your home is about $170,000. I`d like to
compare that to roughly the median house price. So, we take someone right
in the middle. They can take every penny they have, sell their car, you
know, their 401(k), every penny, they pay off their mortgage. That means
all they have is retirement and Social Security.

If you take the group down, 45 to 54, they`re at about $70,000. You know,
maybe it will be up there 150 ten years out. But, you know, we`re not
looking at people. These are at the middle. Half the people are below
that. People are not having wealthy retirements.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. So, Social Security is not the supplemental,
it is not just the extra. It is what people that really living on. And
so, when we make a chain CPI, just so the folks, in case, they are not
quite catching this, exactly how does that change? The CPI is about a
basket of things you would buy, right? It makes you like imagine that you
need to put a basket of goods together. How is the chained CPI different
than that?

BARRO: What the chain CPI does is it takes account of the fact that as
prices change, people buy more of some things and less of other things.
So, as you know, if beef rises in price relative to chicken, CPI will
adjust upward, you know, on average, you know, chicken went up by x and
beef by y. Chain CIP adjusts for the fact that people will buy less beef
and more chicken because the relative of price change.

COOK: Like this is the substitution.

BAKER: And it`s important to note that seniors have different consumption
and we know that. And that suggest that seniors actually see a higher rate
of inflation. That`s an experimental index. Everyone is a proponent of
the chained CPI go wide wake from bureau of labor and statistics can struck
at four elderly index and they all runaway from me.


HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. What you`ve said is what if we collected some
data and answer these empirical questions? Well, no. Absolutely not.

Thank you to Dean and to Josh and also to Carmen and Lisa, but they are
going to stick around a bit longer because when we come back, before you
pay your taxes, you have to earn your pay. And the fact is that some folks
who are working are not getting the same money as other folks for the same


HARRIS-PERRY: For many Americans, tax time is when you get a full sense of
just exactly what you have earned during the year. That familiar 1040 form
lays it all out in black and white. Or should I say in pink and blue?
Because tax time is also a reminder of the wide gap that still exists in
the wages paid to men and women, 50. That is the number of years that have
passed since the enactment of the equal pay act by president John F.
Kennedy in April of 1963.

15.1 million, that`s the number of households headed by women in the United
States that would benefit from equal pay. Thirty one percent is how many
of those households have income levels that fall below the poverty line.
Seventy seven is how many cents women working full-time currently make for
every dollar men are paid. $11,084 is the yearly wage gap created by that
pay deficit between full-time working men and women. Seventy three cents
is how much women in Seattle, Washington, make for every dollar that men
are paid, giving that city the distinction of the largest wage gap of a
metropolitan area in the country.

Sixty four 64 is how much African-American women are paid for every dollar
men earn, showing that women of color are more impacted by these unequal
pay disparities and 55 cents is how much Latino women are paid for every
dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men.

Forty five is the number of years it would take for women`s pay to catch up
to men if current rates don`t change and 89 is the number of additional
more weeks of food that women could afford if the wage gap were eliminated.
Seven is how much more months of mortgage and utility payments women could
afford with the elimination of the wage gap and one is the number of bills
called the paycheck fairness act currently awaiting congressional approval
that would amend the 1938 fair labor standards act and prohibit employers
from paying men more than women for the same job.

The act would also prohibit those employers from penalizing women who speak
up about pay disparities. If women are expected to contribute equally with
the taxes that are taken out of their checks, that it`s beyond time they
have equal pay.

So up next, the thing allowing women small business owners to gain equal


HARRIS-PERRY: The lack of women CEOs at fortune 500 companies is well-
documented. And as of last year, record number of 20 women were heads of
company like Kraft, Yahoo! and others. But, hey are focusing in the
largest companies. We missed a growing number of women-owned small
businesses that are being created and need support. Kind of farther down
the line.

The most recent census data shows 7.8 million women-owned firms in 2007.
Ninety percent of those were small businesses. And between 1997 and 2007,
companies owned by women grew at double the rate of their male
counterparts. Yet, despite those gains, the numbers could be better.
Women owned firms employ just six percent of the nation`s workforce. They
account for four percent of private sector business revenues and only two
percent of women-owned firms are considered high achieving. In other
words, earning one million or more in revenues.

Small businesses are responsible for the creation of 65 percent of new jobs
in the last 17 years. By supporting women entrepreneurs, we would in turn
be supporting our economy.

So, at the table, personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich and Michigan
State University`s Lisa Cook. And also joining me now are Amy Palmer, CEO
and founder own small business and also, Tycoonist
entertainment and Dorie Clark, author of reinventing you. Define your
brand, imagine your future.

Thank you, ladies, for all being here.

I want to start, Carmen, and you know, you and I have talked a bit about
this at various points. But, what in particular challenges facing women
when it comes to beginning a small business?

ULRICH: Oh, many, many, taking care of the kids. But, that`s really the
reason why many women have stopped, including myself. If you are a single
parent or if you are mom, you need flexible hours. So, a lot of these
women, they`re not the big earners, that two percent. The rest of them
mostly working from home, supporting their families, because they need some

But what stands in the way, a lot -- there is a lot going first. We have
got the web, we have got access to people all around the world, access to
capital, on that`s just the phrase that just means no one is going to lend
to me.

So we have a lot of women and I met many, many of them who have fantastic
small businesses, they just need, whether it`s $10,000, a thousand, $10,000
and some even $100,000 to get to the next level. And all the talk this
kind of (INAUDIBLE) talk is about having access to capital and getting to a
point where you are scalable. Meaning you can get huge. And women
encounter so much trouble getting the money and getting people to really
believe and invest in them. But, that`s a huge, huge burden.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is part of your personal story. I mean, we
were just looking at women business owners and we are looking at how they
started or acquired their businesses. And more than 55 percent of them are
starting with either personal or family savings, six percent coming from
personal or family assets other than savings, about 11 percent from a
business or personal credit card. And under one percent either getting
business loans from the federal or state governments or from the banks. In
other words, women are absolutely boot strapping these businesses on their

AMY PALMER, CEO, FOUNDER, POWERWOMENTV: They are boot strapping their
businesses and for me, I sell funded power women TV for four years. I took
my primary job and I said, I believe so much in this mission and this
network that I was living way below what I should be living at my age
because I believed in it. My passion, determination and the integrity for
my brand is what attracted an a investor to me. But, it took me four years
to find that investor.

HARRIS-PERRY: And do you think that is in part based on gender Dorie? I
mean, is part of what`s going on is that banks are seeing women and maybe
particularly young women who maybe will go out and have kids as bad

it, Melissa. Another key issue is that the venture capital industry is
traditionally extremely male. If you look at the high point, the high
watermark of the VC industry from `95 to `99, during that period, only six
percent of the funds -- of the firms funded by Venture Capitalists had
women management on their teams. The one optimistic trend is the rise in
angel investing, that is investing done at a lower level. Smaller amounts
of money than venture capital. More women are involved as investors and
more women are getting funded.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But this isn`t -- the other thing I think Lisa, that
was surprising to me just looking and seeing that 0.5 percent from
government guarantee loans and from federal state and local governments.
Should we have a different perspective on loan federal and state loan
making, government loan making?

COOK: They should and they shouldn`t. So, I would like first to be
slightly careful. Those data that you showed are true for all businesses,
all new businesses. That`s true. The point where women differ is in the
last statistic that you just raised.

Now, the problem for start-ups is that women typically have lower credit
scores, OK? So this is what we have to address. Why do they have --


COOK: So often they don`t have credit histories. They don`t have credit
histories like men do. And we are still trying to figure out why.
Economists are still trying to figure out why. Sometimes it`s that women
are more reliant on their parents and college for example or they don`t
have jobs as early. So, they don`t have the credit histories. So, we are
also trying to change that. So, there are some experiments that are
happening with including different kinds of bills, for example in one`s
credit scores, like utility bills and not just credit cards.

HARRIS-PERRY: Responsible bill payer but you weren`t carrying a visa card.

COOK: That`s right. That`s right. So, that`s one thing. But, another
thing is that I think women are less informed about, say, small business
loans and SBA policy and so on and how do you find out this information?
You find this information out through networks. Through country club
memberships, through basketball games that are all men. So I think that
this is one of the informal ways, that --

ULRICH: That`s a big part. This last part here is about who you know.
You mentioned VCs and Angels. That`s very much who do you know. Who is
going to connect you with VC or Angel? For example, I will do it for
friends and there are some female focused angel funds right now who really
understand that women-owned businesses, and investing in them is actually a
great bargain because they are priced very differently than the men because
all the money is flowing in this direction. And they know that they are
going to get dedication, they are going to get women that are really
dedicated to what they want to do and they are going to get a better
return, possibly, it`s less of a risk. So. there are there.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is there a risk aversion or risk, you know, willingness to
take risk different among women? And you know, obviously, not all women
are the same. But do you see a different kind of risk aversion that also
related to this credit history?

PALMER: I do. I think that women have so many wonderful ideas. And I get
e-mails from all over the world through power women. And they say to me I
want to be you, I want to do what you are doing. How did you do it? There
is no set formula. But I will tell you, it`s so important to have the
right team around you. And I don`t mean a business adviser and investor.
I mean, your partner, your friends, your family, they need to support you
because so many times and we -- Carmen and I, you know, have many friends
in common who are amazing female entrepreneurs and the common factor is
that they`ve always been told that`s a bad idea. I don`t think you can do
that. And we always say we are not listening to anybody. We are doing it.
We are making it happen. At this level where I`m at, I have an investor
and I`m almost launching this network, I still hear it. I have to say that
my main supporters have been men.


OK. There -- so, we are going to stay on this because I want to ask a
little bit about like once you do make that decision, once you get over the
risk aversion and you`re in it, do you brand yourself as a woman doing this
or do we pick a more gender neutral perspective because I do want to tell
everybody about my own personal favorite woman small business owner. She
lives in New Orleans and I just love what she has done when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: My favorite woman small business owner is a person I`ve
never met but I see her work all the time. Simone Bruney (ph) is New
Orleans demolition diva. She lost both her home and job in the aftermath
of hurricane Katrina. And even though she did not have formal construction
experience, she saw a need in her community that could offer a niche for
her business. And from that, was born the Demo Diva.

Simone brings a distinctly feminine flair to a male dominated arena. All
of her heavy equipment and dumpsters are pink. It`s a good example of how
women entrepreneurs can change the field with their small businesses.

So Dorie, I wanted to ask you about Demo Diva because the only reason I
know she exists and that I have sort of an opinion about her business is
because she uses all of this pink branding, right? So, I saw it, I thought
that`s interesting. I looked it up. I learned more about it. Should
women be branding themselves as girls doing work, women doing the work or
should we be trying to be as gender neutral as possible and be good as what
I do?

CLARK: Well, I think, Melissa, that we are really exiting an era where
what mattered was how we were the same as other people, did you go to the
same schools, did you go to the same clubs. And I think we are entering an
era where what really matters is what`s unique about you, what`s different.

And so, I don`t think that necessarily, the women have to brand themselves
as I`m a woman doing this. But you need to ask yourself the question, what
about me uniquely as an individual can I bring? And maybe if you`re in a
male-dominated industry like demolition, maybe it is a big difference that
you`re a woman. And you know, obviously, you know, the pink things are
just a phenomenal branding, it is a great visual cue. But, for anyone the
question really is what do I bring to the table that no one else can?

HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, it was interesting when you were talking about
men as mentors. It certainly has been true for me as well when I think of
many of the people who cheered me on were men. But then, I`m also thinking
on the other end though, particularly to selling a product or trying to
bring in clients, are you targeting women as your clients or are you
targeting that broader group?

CLARK: No. For power women, it`s all women. But the interesting thing is
I had a business adviser who went to Columbia business school and we worked
on my business plan together. And as we created it, he said there`s too
much pink in this. Don`t use the color pink because VCs will be turned off
by it. So, I had to take the business plan and put some grays and black
and make it a little more formal. When you go to power women TV, it`s pink
and it is gray. Power women TV. Make no mistake about it. So, it is
interesting. There is a balance. So, you don`t want everything to be pink
and girlie because, you know, my feedback has been they`re not going to
take you as serious.

ULRICH: Not all women are attracted to that.

HARRIS-PERRY: Not all women are pinkie.

ULRICH: I do feel like -- because I`m in financial services in that world
where there`s not many of us. It`s more so not just conscious branding, it
is you know, I`m a chick, I`m a brown chick, check it out. It is more of
that if you are him, if you get me, if you`re simpatico, I don`t care what
gender or what color, then, you are -- you can be with me. So, I don`t
consciously do that.

However, I did avoid pinks, I avoid being too girlie because the problem is
you need to be taken seriously by the people in your field about by the
majority of people in our field. So, there`s a very delicate balance where
she did it great, Demo Diva. I mean, that`s in your face. But, I chose to
kind of not completely go in that direction.

HARRIS-PERRY: You don`t want to hide it either.

PALMER: There is space there. By putting myself out there, I`m saying hi,
I`m a lady.

COOK: There`s a lot of variation by industry. I would completely agree
with you. So, when I was at Harvard, one of the things I was doing was
consulting and advising governments.

I had just a spectrum of colors from dark gray to light gray. So no color
when I showed up, you knew who I was. There`s no ambiguity about what`s
going on. But, we know from names research that people are very sensitive
today, so I do research on black names and on women names. And what we
find is that women experience this kind of discrimination, African-
Americans do, so there has to be or there is a perception gap. There has
to be a way to address that perception gap.

HARRIS-PERRY: And that names research is fascinating because it doesn`t
require bodies. It`s not that like a person comes and is like -- it`s just
if you`re sending resumes with one kind of name or another and seeing who
gets callbacks.

But, of course, this is part of your point about why people end up starting
their own businesses is in part because of the kind of labor market
discrimination people experience and now I`m going to work for myself.

ULRICH: That is huge because how many times have I hit the ceiling so many
times and the glass ceiling and many other ceilings. And so, at a point,
you know, get frustrated and you say well, I`m going to do this on my own.
And the first year I doubled my income. So, there was just too many, if it
gets to a point where women have so much trouble getting ahead because the
assumptions are, you just be quiet, you can be an assistant. That`s where
you belong. So, that they find a different way around it, but it`s a very
risky thing to do.

PALMER: It is.

COOK: And we are risk averse. I mean, the research shows that we`re risk
averse. That`s a good thing and a bad thing. So, we don`t change our
investment portfolios.

PALMER: A generation of women who are -- they`re savvy.

HARRIS-PERRY: They`re going to have no choice. It`s not a very safe
economic environment. They`re going to have to be.

Thank you to Carmen and Amy and Dorie. And Lisa is going to hang out a
little longer.

And coming up, Beyonce and Jay-Z, will they just want any reason to talk
about, Beyonce? So, we are going to talk about specifically about why their
trip to Cuba is so controversial.

We are also going to take a rare behind the scenes look Venus and Serena
Williams. The director of the new documentary is going to join us live.

There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, I`m Melissa Harris-
Perry. Two Republicans in Congress came up with a novel approach to the
question of what anniversary gifts to get for the couple who already has
everything. Last week Jay-Z and Beyonce celebrated their fifth year as
Mr. and Mrs. Carter with a four-day visit to Havana, Cuba. They returned
home to find something waiting for them that they definitely can`t count
among their sizeable assets -- an inquiry into whether or not they were
guilty of committing a federal crime.

Florida Representatives Ileana Ross-Lehtinen, Florida, and Mario Diaz-
Balart, Florida, sent a letter to the Treasury Department, quote, to
express concern and to request information regarding the highly
publicized trip by U.S. musicians Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Sean Carter
to Cuba. Adding, as you know, U.S. law expressly prohibits the licensing
of financial transactions for tourist activities in Cuba.

As it turns out, the representatives` concern was misplaced, because B
and Jayz trip was licensed under a 2011 Obama administration policy that
loosened restrictions on travel to Cuba. The policy allows licenses,
quote, under the auspices of an organization that sponsors and organizes
people-to-people programs. The license permitting the Carter`s trip was
issued to the non-profit group Academic Arrangements Abroad. But, for
most Americans, Cuba remains off limits. The only country that the
United States restricts its citizens from visiting.

President Obama`s travel allowance is the latest update to the U.S.`s 50-
year-old policy of economic and diplomatic isolation against Cuba. The
U.S. embargo was put into place by President Kennedy in 1962 after $1.8
billion worth of U.S. property was confiscated by the Cuban government
under the newly installed regime of Fidel Castro, and it has been the
inheritance of every U.S. president ever since. Each administration
hoping that the economic chokehold of sanctions would force the Communist
island nation to submit to democracy and free market capitalism and end
the Castro regime. But, five decades later, Cuba remains a Communist
nation with a Castro in charge. And, it was old age, not illness,
ultimately, and not -- excuse me, old age and illness, not U.S. policy --
that finally forced Fidel Castro to abdicate his leadership to his
brother Raul in 2008.

Critics of the Castro government point to the lingering human rights
concerns around the silencing of journalists and political dissidents.
But, even some of those critics question the effectiveness of U.S.
policy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has urged President Obama to
drop the embargo sighting $1.2 billion annual burden it imposes on the
U.S. economy. And, the Cuban government uses the embargo as a perennial
scapegoat, blaming it for crippling shortages of resources like food and
medicine. So, after half a century of passing the buck on a failed
policy, is it finally time that the buck stops right here, with the

Joining me now, Lisandro Perez, a Cuban-American, and also Professor and
Chair of the Department of Latin-American Studies and Latina Studies at
John J. College; Soffiyah Elijah, who`s an attorney and scholar; Sujantha
Fernandes, who is Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College and
the Graduate Center at Quinny and also the author of "Cuba Represents";
Lisa Cook who`s been with us for days now -- I just love her -- she hangs
out with us -- Associate Professor of Economic and International
Relations at Michigan State University; and with us from Washington,
D.C., Mauricio Claver-Coron who is the director of the U.S.-Cuba
Democracy Pac.

So, Mauricio, I actually want to start with you. Let me just ask, is it
time to lift the sanctions?

absolutely not, to the contrary. I mean, what you see right now in Cuba
is essentially a politically, socially economic regime led by a handful
of octogenarians. And, meanwhile, you have a whole new generation of
political dissidents on the island which we`ve just witnessed throughout
the world, whether it`s the daughter of murdered pro-democracy leader,
(inaudible), who`s currently here in the United States and will be
returning to Cuba, the head of the Ladies in White, which is the largest
pro-democracy movement in Cuba, which are women, which at this time, as
we`re speaking, are marching through different cities on the island.
These are the wives, daughters, sisters, relatives of other Cuban
political prisoners who dress in white with a flower in their hand asking
for freedom and democracy for all Cubans.

That is the alternative. That is the future leadership of Cuba. And to
now come out at the last minute and hand over billions and billions and
billions of dollars of tourist and trade dollars to a monopoly --
because, let`s remember, the Cuban government, the Castro regime holds a
monopoly over the tourism industry and every other industry in that
country -- it is a totalitarian economy -- it would be illogical, and it
would be a huge betrayal to those courageous pro-democracy activists that
are fighting, as we speak right now on the streets of Cuba.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, Lisandro, Mauricio is basically explaining
this for us almost like the Spring of the middle east of (inaudible),
that there is a pro-democracy effort, and it`s our responsibility as a
country to maintain the sanctions and the embargo in order to support
that effort.

STUDIES, JOHN J. COLLEGE: But, you know, Melissa, what`s interesting is
that most of those dissidents, and the internal opposition in Cuba, most
of those (inaudible) have called, in fact, for ending the embargo. But,
if the embargo (inaudible) ...

CLAVER-CORON: That`s not true.

PEREZ: ... and the isolation of Cuba, actually hinders their work,
because they`re shut off from the rest of the world. So it`s the case
that I think the embargo among the many reasons why it should be lifted
is because a lot of people argue, in fact, it would probably help those
people like Jovani Sanchez, for example, who has had a tour of the United
States. She`s a well-known blogger in Cuba and abroad. It`s someone
who`s called, for example, for the end of the embargo.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, this could ...

PEREZ: It`s really a vestige of the cold war.

HARRIS-PERRY: So it seems to me that what we`ve heard here Sujatha is an
economic and political argument, right? Certainly there`s a moral and
ethical one, which I want to talk more about in a second. But just on
the politics and economics, the question of whether or not the embargo
itself does the work of moving the island towards democracy.

don`t think -- in fact, I think that it does the reserve. Under the Bush
administration -- especially the aim of the embargo in the Bush
administration policies toward Cuba -- was regime change. And, really,
all it did was make Cubans feel very bitter towards the United States.
They say, "Why are they doing this? Why are they -- why are they doing
this to us? Why are they depriving us of all of these resources?" And
food and medicine are two areas where it is particularly difficult for
Cubans because of the embargo. Both of these are very scarce, and it`s a
humanitarian issue.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Mauricio, let me ask you that. Then, you know, if I
think about other totalitarian regimes with which we have fairly
normalized relationships, like China, for example, and, in fact, you
know, I know it`s a bit silly, but because the Jay-Z/Beyonce moment is
part of what has put this back on the table for Americans -- you know,
Jay-Z actually has this lyric in which he is suggesting, well, why are
you mad about me being in a communist -- on a communist island -- when
the microphone that I`m rapping on is from China, which also has a
communist regime?" But, it does, you know, I mean -- yeah, it`s a hip-
hop lyric, but it does kind of open up this question. So, how is Cuba
different than China? Why should we be behaving so much more differently
towards that nation?

CLAVER-CORON: I`d be willing to wager with you and with anybody else at
the table that Cuba will become a democracy before China becomes a
democracy. We see that sanctions have a certain effect. I mean, China
today is the most lucrative dictatorship -- brutal dictatorship -- in
human history. In part, thanks, because all we care about is business,
and we forget about the thousands of people that are being tortured in
prison in China on a daily basis. When`s the last time we had a show in
which we were mentioning courageous Chinese pro-democracy activists?
Well, not very recently, because all we care about is how much money the
Chinese government`s making and how much money is being made by our
business over there.

In Cuba, you know, you have a whole new generation of leadership. It`s
laughable to any Cuban to think that the Castro regime is going to
continue -- or really any vestige of it -- because all Cubans want
change. If I may address something that Lisandro had mentioned, you
know, actually the majority of the pro-democracy movement on the island
supports sanctions. Yoani, actually what she said is -- she`s on the
record as saying so -- is that she does not believe that sanctions should
be lifted unconditionally. And the majority of the pro-democracy
movement -- whether it`s the leader of the Ladies in White, (Bert De
Solar) and others have said that we need to maintain those conditions in
U.S. law.

And, let`s remember what those conditions are. It`s the unconditional
release of all political prisoners, the recognition of fundamental human
rights as they`re recognized in any country in the world, and three -- or
should be recognized in any country in the world -- and, three, the
legalization of independent labor unions, of independent political
parties, and the independent media. We`re not asking for the world here.

And, by the way, also the difference with China, is that here we are in
the western hemisphere. In this western hemisphere, 34 out of 35
countries in this hemisphere have signed on to the Inter-American
Democratic Charter and accept representative democracy, even the Chavez
government in Venezuela does so. So, this is an anomaly to what should
be a fully democratic hemisphere. So in our geo-strategic interests
here, the last thing we want to return to in this western hemisphere are
dictatorships of either the left or the right.

HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so let me get your response to some of that Soffiyah,
because that`s a pretty comprehensive claim that he`s making -- that
Mauricio`s making.

SOFFIYAH ELIJAH, ATTORNEY: Well, the problem with Mauricio`s claim is it
fails to recognize the sovereignty of the Cubans and the Cuban nation to
make their own decisions about how they want to run their country. The
United States doesn`t have the right to tell any other country how it
should operate. And Cubans in Cuba should have the right to determine
who they want to run their government and how they want their democracy
or non-democracy -- whatever we want to claim -- should operate. And, I
don`t think Mauricio or anybody in the United States has the right to
start throwing stones at what`s going on in Cuba, because we have enough
problems here in the United States. We talk about political dissidents
and human rights violations, the primary human rights violators in Cuba
are the United States soldiers in Guantanamo.

HARRIS-PERRY: Hold that, because I promise, we are coming to Guantanamo
Bay. We`re not going to have this conversation without getting there.
But when we come back, I do want to talk a little bit -- and I want to
ask you about this Lisa -- whether or not, in fact, exporting between the
U.S. and Cuba is good for Cuba. They might want to keep us away. When
we come back.


MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: While the U.S. embargo of Cuba has
taken a heavy economic toll, Cuba remains burdened but not at all broken.
In fact, the sanctions have shielded Cuba from the consequences of free
market neoliberalism that has had disastrous results in other Latin-
American nations. Even with limited resources, Cuba has managed to match
much wealthier nations, including the U.S., in areas like health,
education, employment, and literacy. And so, Sujatha, I want to turn to
you on this. I know that you spend a lot of time studying and
researching in Cuba, and you have some claims about the kind of robust
cultural life that exists in part because of the embargo.

Right. So, the -- the -- one of the things that the embargo has done it
has limited U.S. consumer culture. It has limited U.S. tourism to Cuba.
So, imagine an entire island where there`s no McDonald`s.


FERNANDES: Right? I mean this is ...

HARRIS-PERRY: That sounds great!


HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. I mean that actually sounds like a positive -- I`m
constantly stunned by how much economic hedge meter because of multi-
national corporations.


HARRIS-PERRY: When you travel anywhere in the world, there`s a Gap.
There`s a McDonald`s. There`s a KFC. And, you just realize how much
we`ve exported these things.

FERNANDES: Exactly. And, this is an island where -- okay, it may be
difficult to find clothes because of ...


FERNANDES: ... you know, there is no Gap or there is no Old Navy, but at
the same, it has -- it has also produced a very vibrant arts and cultural
scene and musical culture within Cuba. And, one of the things that I`ve
looked at has been rap music, which, you know, due to -- which has
thrived on the island, despite the embargo. Then. at the same time,
because they didn`t have access to digital technology, like samplers,
like mixers, because they didn`t have -- you know, they weren`t on the
tour circuit for American rap acts or because they just didn`t have MTV,
they really innovated and they created very interesting forms of rich
culture that draw on traditional Cuban instrumentation, that, you know,
use the human beat box to mimic samples where they didn`t have samplers.
And, really, came up with such a unique culture and so, for me, I think,
yes, that kind of culture would be lost if, you know, that things just
completely opened up and American culture came in.

HARRIS-PERRY: And, Lisa, part of that American culture that comes in is
financial and, so, there is a big economic cost to Americans and to the
U.S. economy for having this embargo. In fact, estimated $1.2 billion in
annual costs of the embargo to us, the United States.

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Right. So, you know, the march of capitalism
is very difficult to resist, especially among agricultural producers in
the U.S. So some states, like Alabama, depend on Cuba for one-fourth of
its exports -- so that`s catfish, that`s soybeans, that`s corn, that`s
wheat. It`s a number of different products. And there is a march to do
more. So, in 2001, this was $4 million and 2012, it was $400 million.
And, not only do we have more exports that we want to send to them, there
are imports that we want from them. We want cigars.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we do.

COOK: We want cigars.

HARRIS-PERRY: We do want cigars. That`s -- yes, that is accurate.


COOK: We want sugar. We want citrus foods. We want(inaudible). It has
the second largest reserves of nickel. So, I mean, it`s a really vibrant
economy that we could can benefit from.

In 1957, Cuba was our largest -- or, the U.S. was its largest partner --
with respect to exports and with respect to imports. So if we have this
push to get exports out the door to create a GDP that`s vibrant based on
exports, this is a place that is ready to receive ours.

STUDIES, JOHN J. COLLEGE: But, I`d like to get away a little bit from
just the economics and cultural dimensions and just, you know, look at
the fact that the embargo is really a failed policy, and it has, in many
ways, an ethical and moral dimension to it that is, in the absence of any
national security re-interest in isolating Cuba, the reason the embargo
persists to this day is because a very recalcitrant, very sort of
backward-thinking group of Cuban exiles, primarily, have kept this from
happening. Because there`s no incentive in this country to change
U.S./Cuba policy. And so you have very influential people in Congress,
even, who want to keep this on.

And, I think what`s interesting about the position that Mauricio espouses
is that, you know, that the people who want to keep the embargo, want
change in Cuba. And yet, they want to keep a policy that`s been in
effect for 50 years that, obviously, hasn`t brought about any change in
Cuba. So you would think that you would want a new approach, since one
hasn`t worked for about 50 years.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Mauricio, that`s a reasonable claim. If, you know,
you have 50 years` worth of a policy and that policy hasn`t brought the
change needed, why then persist with the policy?

to come back to the same point that I made before that, you know, the
alternative hasn`t worked either in, let`s say, China and Vietnam, et
cetera. That in business engagement in those country, and those continue
to be brutal dictatorships. Meanwhile, look Burma -- in Burma, sanctions
are working. In South Africa, sanctions work. And I guarantee -- and
I`ll once again make that bet -- that Cuba will become a democratic
nation before China and before Vietnam. And at that point, we can say
which policy failed and which didn`t. If I may address the (public)
(interest) -- OK.

HARRIS-PERRY: We`re actually (inaudible). No, no -- I just want to ask
one quick question. So, I promise I`m going to let you finish, but. So
you use the South African example, which is one that I think is extremely
compelling for the use of sanctions to change a regime that was
appalling. But it did, for example, include a travel ban, right? So, at
any point, Americans still had the freedom to move around the globe,
which is part of how we understand our American-ness -- is our ability
with that passport to -- so I could at any point still go to Johannesburg
or go to Cape Town, even in the context of it.

So how -- I mean, I really am interested.


HARRIS-PERRY: Help me to understand .


HARRIS-PERRY: . why a travel ban, an embargo of this level, is different
than a sanction?

CLAVER-CORON: Sure. No, actually, tourism is the crux of U.S. sanctions
toward Cuba, because tourism is the number one industry of the Cuban
government. Like oil is the number one industry of Iran, so, therefore,
let`s target oil in the case of Iran. You know, tourism is not a big
industry in North Korea. Tourism is not a big industry in Iran. And,
so, at the end of the day, what are you going to target? Where are you
going to focus on? The tourism industry, because the tourism industry in
Cuba is all owned and operated by the Cuban military through a
conglomerate called Giza, which is Raul Castro`s son-in-law. And,
therefore, we should not be giving tens of billions of dollars to the
Castro family, which owns all of those hotels, all those nightclubs, all
of those restaurants. And have for many years maintained an apartheid
system in which the areas where tourists were able to go to that Cubans
weren`t. And, for the most part, the two million Canadian and European
tourists that have gone to Cuba, go to these all-inclusive resorts on
these keys, which, essentially, are out of access to Cubans, so at the
end of the day, you`re really not helping the Cuban people unless we
believe in some extraordinary example of trickle-down economics, but, you
know, we`re on MSNBC, and we`re being recorded here ...


CLAVER-CORON: ... I don`t -- I don`t -- I don`t -- I disagree that there
would be an extreme form of trickle-down economics in Cuba.

HARRIS-PERRY: I love that you were like, and clearly, no one on this
network believes that.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, hold on and wait for me. We`re going to come back
after the commercial, because I want to talk about that other all-
inclusive resort that nobody wants to go to, and that is Guantanamo Bay,
when we come back.


MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Right this minute, egregious human
rights violations are taking place in Cuba. Prisoners being held
indefinitely for years with no formal charges filed against them, no
trial in sight, people who say they`ve been subjected to torture and
abuse, victims suffering under mental and physical duress that could
ultimately lead to their death. All under the watch, not of the Cuban
government, but of our own at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

So, you -- you started to bring up (inaudible) this topic that, you know,
there are 70 people currently living in Cuba who are refugees --
political refugees -- from the U.S. There are -- who are finding asylum
and face (inaudible) in Cuba. There is a American presence, which has a
circumstance where prisoners at Guantanamo are in a hunger strike,
because of the sources. It does make it tough to have, like, a single
kind of ethical or moral stance for this country vis-a-vis that country.

SOFFIYAH ELIJAH, ATTORNEY: I couldn`t agree with you more. Like I said,
you know, people who live in glass houses shouldn`t throw stones. The
most egregious reports of torture, people being held in custody, came out
of Guantanamo and then later in Abu Ghraib, all of which were the doing
of the United States government. Even the United States challenged
whether or not the people who were being tortured in Guantanamo should
have the right to legal representation. In fact, lawsuits had to be
filed in order to just allow these people to have lawyers to represent
them. That`s not something that we find being operated by the Cuban
government. So, the United States really needs to take a hard look in
the mirror about what it`s doing.

I wanted to go back for a moment to the point that Mauricio made about
South Africa. One of the huge differences in the argument that he`s
making and what`s happening in Cuba in South Africa, the people rose up
with arms to fight back against the government. That`s not what`s
happening in Cuba. And, we are going to have to recognize that Cubans
have to be physically fit and trained militarily to resist an invasion
from the United States, unfortunately. So, if they wanted to engage in a
military uprising against their government, they`re probably better
equipped to do so than, perhaps, any other nation on this planet.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, in other words, you`re suggesting if there were a kind
of Arab Spring uprising, that that might be a compelling reason for the
U.S. to take a kind of position as it did in South Africa, but that
that`s not what we`re seeing at this moment.

ELIJAH: Precisely. And, one of the reasons that we know that is if we
look back at the -- back in was it 1902 -- the United States agreed to
turn over sovereignty of the Cuban nation to the Cuban people only if the
U.S. could continue to have influence and control over how it ran its
government. So, the revolution in 1959 is not what triggered the United
States` feeling that it ought to control what`s going on in Cuba. The
United States has always wanted to take control of this island nation
from far before Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.

STUDIES, JOHN J. COLLEGE: Melissa, if ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Well -- well -- let me let -- let me let Lisandro in and
then I promise I`ll come to you.

PEREZ: I could go -- we could spend the entire day discussing the
internal situation in Cuba.


PEREZ: Ultimately, this is a U.S. policy.


PEREZ: And, it should be formulated in terms of the best interests of
the United States. And my argument on that is that regardless of its
impact on Cuba -- and I think it will be positive on Cuba -- ultimately,
there is no reason why the most powerful nation in the world needs to
treat Cuba as if it`s a threat in any way and keep its own citizens from
traveling there. And, it`s increasingly becoming isolated.

We`ve talked about the sanctions situation that Mauricio brought out
about South Africa. Well, the South Africa analogy breaks down, because,
in a sense, almost the entire world were behind those sanctions in South
Africa. The vote that was taken in November -- last November at the U.N.
-- every year, there`s a U.N. resolution condemning the U.S. for the
embargo in Cuba. And the vote is 182, this last time, to two. Only the
U.S. and Israel voted against the resolution to condemn the U.S. embargo.
Even the Martial Islands has now abandoned the U.S. on the issue of the
embargo. And, the U.N. ...

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Mauricio, this is a different way of framing it, I
think than I had been doing previously, right? This isn`t about what`s
good for Cuba. This is a question about what is reasonable U.S. policy.
There`s no national security threat, and it`s 90 miles off the coast.
There`s a $1.2 billion potential economic capacity. And, even if there
are the kinds of human rights violations that I think wouldn`t suggest
there aren`t, we have normalized relationships with other countries that
have that. So from a U.S. policy perspective, just sort of taking the
Cuban welfare question out, is there a good reason to continue the

as the sole dissenting voice on this panel, I have so much I want to say.
I don`t even know where to start. But, look, at the end of the day, I
think first and foremost the fact that all -- the only standard that we
ask for Cuba is that of the other 34 countries in the western hemisphere.
And I think that`s fair, and it`s something called the Inter-American
Democratic Charter. I do think it`s very important to clarify -- let me
take the point, because I might not have the chance again -- that, you
know, the 70 people that you reference to that are quote/unquote
political refugees in Cuba, are people that are wanted by the FBI,
including the murders of American police officers or law enforcement
officials. So I wouldn`t take that so lightly.

In the comparison with Guantanamo, if I may -- look, the one difference
between the Guantanamo prison on the Cuban side and the Guantanamo prison
on the U.S. side, is the fact that the International Committee on the Red
Cross and U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, is allowed to go into the
Guantanamo prison on the U.S. side. And, meanwhile, since 1961, the
Castro regime has prohibited the International Committee on the Red Cross
and U.S. Special Rapporteur on Torture to enter into any Cuban prison to
independently inspect the situations there.

It is also very illogical to say that Cubans can somehow rise in arms
against the regime, when the Cuban state security will find -- if you
have a thumb drive or a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
in a remote house in a remote village anywhere in Cuba, they will come to
your house and put you in prison for a thumb drive or for a copy of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

That happens all the time. So it`s tough to say that, you know, if you
have arms -- because no one has arms in Cuba, it`s a totalitarian state.
And, finally, if I make the point, because one of colleagues mentioned, I
think it`s so important with the whole Jay-Z situation, in regards to
hip-hop, let`s remember that there are currently hip-hop artists in Cuba
that are currently in prison because of their lyrics critical to the
regime. One of them, (Anah Ramone), Yunir another one, Miguel Sanchez
Cruz, who has -- (Lima) Cruz, who has been in prison since December of
2010 ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but ...

CLAVER-CORON: ... simply for listening -- he`s an Amnesty International
Prisoner of Conscious, simply for listening to critical hip-hop.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, Yeah I mean actually actually I think it`s an, it`s an
important point about sort of this, whether or not there is space for, for
these kinds of, you know part of, of what we`re trying to do here is
something that I think we may not have a great ability to do given the
nature of the embargo which is to talk in um, in careful ways about what
life is like in Cuba itself but do you want to speak to that Mrs. Johnson

JOHNSON: Yeah I think, you know and I agree sure (ph) there are people who
are criticized -- there is censorship that exists in Cuba and and, rap
musicians face this but at the same time there are a very large number of
people who don`t -- large number of rappers, large number of filmmakers,
documentary makers, many of them young, many of them critical of the
government who don`t identify with the pro-democracy movement but who are
working within the system to launch critiques to think how they could make
it better -- to think about a post-embargo Cuba.

HARRIS-PERRY: Marissa (ph) thank you so much-- I`m so sorry. Everybody
we`re -- it`s just out of time and it`s complicated but -- Marissa (ph) I
do want to thank you for joining us and I know it`s tough when you`re not
sitting at the table. So thank you, um for joining us and also thank you to
all of the voices here at the table Lisandro (ph), Lisandrro, Sophia, Jotha
(ph), and Lisa. Also, thank you to everyone at home for watching -- try to
think about the complicated questions that are facing our national policy
around Cuba. And up next more complications: the complicated challenge of
creating opportunity and protecting the environment. There`s an activist
caught in the middle she`s going to come hang out at my table.




HARRIS-PERRY: This was the scathing headline recently in the New York Times
accompanied by a photograph of community activist Majora Carter: Hero of
the Bronx is Now Accused of Betraying It. The report says that Carter, who
gains national prominence for his environmental justice efforts, has now
been hired by the popular grocery delivery service Fresh Direct. The
problem? Many in the Bronx -- where Carter grew up and got her start and
made her name, opposed siding Fresh Direct in the neighborhood because it
contributes to the truck traffic and other pollutants, which Carter has
made a career fighting. Her new Fresh Direct gig has critics like Eddie
Bautista of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, saying things
like quote "the ironies are just breathtaking. Either you`re an honest
broker and accountable to the community, or you`re working for business
interests and accountable to that. Joining me now to answer that criticism
is Majora Carter, President of the Majora Carter Group and host of "The
Promised Land", a Peabody Award-winning show, from America Morning Public
Media. So I feel like we were having the same week, Majora.


HARRIS-PERRY: And I just wanna, I mean that`s a legitimate question so let
me ask it. Can you be accountable to community and accountable to Fresh
Direct at the same time?

CARTER: Absolutely. Especially someone who`s sort of been in the position
that I`ve -- have been in. And then went and worked nationally and
internationally and recognized that there`s great things that I would be
able to do to support communities like mine. And I was looking at it from
that position. This was very consistent with the work I`ve been doing,
which is all about how did you come up with sustainable business models
that support folks on the ground. And so, it would make perfect sense to me
to take on this client for both the, the economic development standpoint --
thousands of jobs, um, from the food security standpoint and also the fact
that they actually have to committed, have been committed to alternative
fuels as well.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s walk through those three or four seconds so let`s talk
about the economic development one. Because of course you know this as an
environmental justice advocate: the single toughest thing that, that under-
served communities have to do is make a trade-off between environmental
justice and economics. And so, Fresh Direct, if it sites in the South Bronx
it`s gonna end up with about a 130 million in tax subsidies right? In order
to keep it from going to New Jersey, right? Which is routine practice on
the part of localities to maintain businesses. But we`ve also been very
critical of that over the years.

CARTER: Except what I`ve seen and actually one of the reasons why I was
interested in this particular subsidy deal was that this one was tied for
the most part to job creation.

HARRIS-PERRY: Okay explain that.

CARTER: They don`t get any, they don`t, they don`t make the jobs. They
don`t get any money.


CARTER: Most of the, the deals that are out there, that acts to Yankee
Stadium, um which you know many of the folks didn`t really have a problem
with um. They didn`t talk so much about that, but I looked at this one and
realized that if these, if these jobs do move to Jersey or to Long Island
as they could easily do, we lose about 2400 New York City jobs because
they`re not gonna travel that far and in addition, we won`t even have the
option of getting the 1000 extra jobs that this company has promised to
create because of their tax subsidies are connected to it.

HARRIS-PERRY: So let`s talk about the food security piece. The second
piece, right? So the food delivery is an interesting way of thinking about
managing a food desert. So in New Orleans, we`re also dealing with some
food deserts in parts of the city that are a little more remote from the
central city so we-- we just for example in New Orleans East just don`t
have grocery stores, and you see somebody, an act who`s like Wendell Pierce
who`s currently trying to open stores but the other model is, is delivery
of those food to those under-served communities but then you have the
problem -- the environmental problem of truck traffic and smog. How do we
balance that?

CARTER: There`s a big difference between just say a community gardens and
all the way up to what are we gonna do with GMOs? And between there`s a
whole range of things that are gonna help us deal with our food security
issues in our country. E-commerce is a fantastic way of doing it.
Especially a companies who are looking specifically at how did they work
regionally around food -- supporting local farmers, like the big farmers
that are, that happen upstate from here as well. And, and also how do you
create opportunities for new food-based entrepreneurs who can then sell
their food through the distribution system that is Fresh Direct. All of
these things you know, can really help support the idea of what`s happening
in our poor communities because we all know it`s not that easy to find good
food in our communities and the fact that this company, Fresh Direct is
working with the USDA so that they can actually collect food stamps in
those communities to get decent food delivered to people`s door. I think
that was, to me, made it very calculated. It was very calculated decision
to work specifically for this company because of the benefits that I saw it
providing to the community.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a-- it`s an interesting position you find yourself in,
Majora, and um, I`m sorry we don`t have a ton of time, but I wanted to give
you a moment just because I think, I think you`ve earned the right to have
a say, um in a moment like this and so I appreciate you coming in.

CARTER: Yeah, it`s interesting that woman leaders, you know people talk
about wanting more women leaders, and yet, they tend to not like the ones
they have. And I really, I don`t think that any man would have gotten the
kind of uh, treatment that I`ve got and that I stand right behind all the
work that I`ve done and will continue to do so because I come with
resources and talent and I will always use it to support -- to take that
position to support my communities.

HARRIS-PERRY: Feel free. Double down. Alright, thank you to Majora Carter,
and up next: a rare and candid look at tennis superstar sisters. The
director of "Venus and Serena", joins me live.


HARRIS-PERRY: Last weekend the stellar sisters of tennis dazzled at the
Family Circle Cup in South Carolina. Serena Williams who is currently
ranked number 1 in the world, won the tournament, which brings to her to a
whopping 49 World Tennis Association titles. Venus Williams, who has been
struggling with an autoimmune disease also had a good weekend, making it
all the way to the semi-finals, where she was beaten by her sister. Next
weekend, the Williams sisters will be playing together, facing off against
Sweden in the World Group Playoffs. These superstars of tennis have been
winning so consistently and for so long, it`s easy to forget how
extraordinary they really are. Now the tale of their rise to tennis
dominance is coming to the big screen in a new documentary called: "Venus
and Serena". Let`s look at one piece of the film that shows just how tight
these sisters really are.

FRIEND IN DOCUMENTARY: When they`re in Florida they live together. They
practice together, they`re doing the same thing, they have the same goal.


FRIEND OF WILLIAMS SISTERS: An adorable thing happened at Fed Cup. I came
in, and there was a big chair and that was the only place they could really
sit, there was, I said oh we have to get another chair or something. They
said no we can sit here. They were trying to scoot in this chair together,
and their hips are touching. And I am cracking up, because I thought, the
water (ph) was telling me how close they truly are connected.

HARRIS-PERRY: With me now in the studio, the film`s co-director, Michelle
Major. So Michelle, the hardest part for me is to remember that these are
grown woman in their thirties` because when I look at them I still see the
William`s girls! And you have this amazing footage of them as girls, where
did all the footage come from?

MICHELLE MAJOR, DIRECTOR "VENUS and SERENA: Well, you know just from lots
of different sources, uhh you know ESPN. Actually people filmed them back
in the day and their father, Richard uh was really instrumental in training
-- giving them media training from very young, and inviting reporters to
meet them because he knew, when they were four and five, that they were
going to be number 1 and 2 in the world. I don`t know how. He claims he
knew before they were born. I mean part of what is fascinating about this
film, I mean the girls are amazing, but Richard Williams is a huge -- he`s
fascinating. He, he planned this, and as you said, as you`ll see in this
film he says you know he had a 78 page document where he planned out their
entire future, um before they were born. And actually he said to his wife
after seeing a tennis match you know, um, they saw a tennis match, a woman
won 40,000 dollars and back in the day that was a lot of money, and he said
well we`re gonna have a girl, and we`re gonna -- she`s gonna be, you know,
a tennis star and make all this money. And they had two, and lo and behold,
it happened.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and not just a tennis star, but incredible athletes.
And I think maybe more than anything the film gave me such um, I already
respect them as athletes, but to watch their work ethic and just how taxing
this has been on their bodies. 30 is not old, but it is tough to be 30 and
be a tennis superstar at the level they are.

MAJOR: Absolutely. I mean it was just something to -- when we went into
doing this documentary, we initially -- they weren`t ill and they hadn`t
had any injuries like this, um, like the year that we filmed. And we were
planning on doing this wonderful film about them triumphing and winning
everything that year, and then we get there and Serena`s in the hospital
and Venus is injured -- gets injured in the first match we go to.


MAJOR: And uh, we were -- we were like what are we gonna do? What is this
film gonna be? But it ends up sort of turning into a comeback story in a
sense and how the -- just showing how they strive so hard to be so great
and how much they really love the game.

HARRIS-PERRY: How much is race connected to that striving--to that sense of
hard work. It was a little hard to get. Sometimes I got a sense of them
really connecting to it as we are African American women doing this, and
sometimes it was just we are obsessive compulsive athletes and tennis

MAJOR: Well as Chris Rock says in this film, it`s one of my favorite lines,
he goes you know, being black is like having a weight, you know and trying
-- having a weight on your legs and training to jump higher. He says when
you learn to maneuver it, then you`re able to jump higher than anybody else
and you`re able work harder than anybody else because um, it took you -- it
was harder to get there in the first place and I think that for them that`s
definitely the case.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask, why Chris Rock and the other one my husband kept
asking, why is Bill Clinton in the movie? Why did you pick some of these

MAJOR: Um, well we kind of pick people who knew them, had a relationship
with them, or -- and really like them, and also were great you know, people
in their own way. And obviously Clinton, you know, being the President of
the United States, he was President when they were, you know, during their
rise, and he called Venus when she won her first Grand Slam and he said --
uh actually it`s a funny story. Venus said to him, "Can you stop raising
our taxes?"


MAJOR: You know, she`s only 19 or so.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s classic.

MAJOR: Yeah, so we went to him to have him tell that story, but then he
ended up giving us a lot more.

MAJOR: I love it that she was a teenager and in fact, let`s talk about
Venus for a second. There`s a moment when she`s about 14. She`s having an
interview, and she`s saying "Yeah I can beat that opponent. I can beat that
opponent." And Richard Williams comes in because the journalist is kind of
trying to say "Oh come on, you can`t really beat her." And he says, "Stop
it, she`s 14 and the way that-- her competitive edge is that she has this
confidence." And in that moment I thought, man that is something, that
sense that as a little girl, a little girl, she has such confidence. Well
that confidence was instilled in both Venus and Serena from both their
mother and their father and he was really protecting her and she told me
after seeing that we put that clip in the film, she said, "Can you put
more? Because that journalist was harassing me, and I was really getting
upset." Because you know, they were being trained to be confident but then
they`re still young.


MAJOR: And then she said "My dad came to rescue me." And to really help--
help me out and that`s what he was doing.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah it was a pretty extraordinary moment. I did-- I watched
the film last night with my 11-year old, and we had a whole debate about
sense of self confidence, about having tough teachers, and you know, some
people love tennis, some people love the Williams sisters, but more than
anything there were great messages in the film about confidence and about
hard work.

MAJOR: Absolutely, yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for making it.

MAJOR: Thank you

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Thank you to Michelle Major and up next: a letter.
Twenty-one pages long, written in a jail. It changed the world.



HARRIS-PERRY: As the regular viewers of this show know, we here in nerd
land love a good political letter. And this Tuesday, April 16th is the 50th
anniversary of the day that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter from a
Birmingham jail. King was in jail for leading non-violent direct action
protests against racial segregation in Birmingham. And while in jail, he
received a public statement of caution and concern written to him by 8
white religious leaders of the south. They were moderates, but they urged
him to wait and to proceed with caution. King`s letter was initially meant
to be just a response to this small group but after he put down his pen,
King had written the preeminent manifesto of the civil rights movement, a
coherent, passionate, philosophical, and personal defense of conscientious
resistance to unjust laws. It was also an impassioned explanation of why we
can`t wait. King wrote, "There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs
over, and man are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of
despair." He went on to lament, "More and more I feel the people of ill
will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We
will have to repent in this generation not nearly for the hateful words and
actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good

To celebrate this classic document of American thought and the five decades
of progress that have followed in its wake, the Birmingham Public Library
is sponsoring a program this week, entitled, "Letter from a Birmingham
Jail: A Worldwide Celebration". On Tuesday, as a reminder that our
continuing struggles are interconnected, people all over the globe will
host public readings from the letter. One of the places holding a public
reading is the Anna Julia Cooper Project at Tulane University where many of
my students and colleagues are participating in a collective reading of
King`s words.

MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: "My dear fellow clergymen, while confined here in the
Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my
present activity unwise and untimely. Seldom do I pause to answer criticism
of my work and ideas. For years now I have heard the word wait. It rings in
the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This wait, has almost
always meant never. We know through painful experience that freedom is
never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the
oppressed." - Martin Luther King Jr.

HARRIS-PERRY: So you have just a moment on Tuesday, take that moment to
read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I promise you`re gonna be glad you
did. That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
gonna see you next Saturday at 10 AM Eastern. But now, it`s time for a
preview of "Weekends with Alex." Hi Alex!


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