June 22, 2013
Guest: Mark Alexander, Katon Dawson, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Irin Carmon, John
Boyd, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, Chris Hicks, Dan Dicker, Stella Adams, Evan
Wolfson, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Janet Mock, Jeff Krehely
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question, what was
Plus, it`s time for a bigger tent under the rainbow.
And we are one nation under a mountain of debt.
But, first, John Boehner is proving to be the most disappointing super
villain of the summer season.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
It is summer blockbuster time and we love our summer movies. Get out of
the heat for a couple of hours. Relax with some popcorn, escape to a world
w the bad guys are bad and the good guys win. You know who the hero is.
You know who the villain is. And there is no question that good will
triumph over evil. Just sit back and enjoy.
But in real life -- well, in real life, we sure would like to have clear
villains and heroes. We want the villains to be Zods, unquestionably evil,
the real bad. We want every hero to be Superman, above reproach. Superman
is right, Zod is wrong, no nuance necessary. We want it to be that simple.
It`s in part while we love presidential elections so much. There is a good
guy - your guy - and a bad guy, the other guy. They fight it out head to
head, and we can anticipate the big battle scenes, you know, they`re always
debates, and follow the action for months until the final climactic moment,
on election night.
But summer politics in an off year, not summer movies. It`s a lot more
complicated. That guy you thought was the good guy, he`s been tracking
your phone calls and e-mails. And the rag tag team coming together to save
the world? Yeah, well, the allegedly bipartisan Senate immigration bill is
skating on increasingly thin ice over in the House.
The powerful, dedicating their lives to helping the weak? Have you seen
Congress lately? The question isn`t whether to cut benefits that millions
of people, many of them children, depend on to eat, it`s by how much.
To be honest, even our movies aren`t that simple anymore. Zod may be hell-
bent on destroying humanity, but that`s because he has a single-minded
devotion to saving the people of Krypton, his people. Superman in "Man of
Steel" struggles throughout his life with his powers and how and whether to
use them. A lot of our movie heroes have become more tortured and more
complex in recent years. Batman, Iron Man, Superman, and that reflects our
world. We know so much more about our leaders, so much more quickly than
we used to. We even know that the best are not blameless. They`re not
But if you ask me, a more complicated story is ultimately a better one.
Pure good versus pure evil, it`s kind of boring. The action of real life
may be harder as a plot to follow, but we can still do it. We can untangle
the plot lines and tell you who the villains are. And rest assured, there
are still bad guys in politics. Many of them are in the House of
Representatives. Look at the farm bill. The House`s version included
severe cuts to SNAP, the food stamp program, $21 billion cut over the next
ten years. Close to 2 million people could lose benefits. 200,000
children could lose free school lunches tied to SNAP eligibility. 850,000
households could see reduced benefits. There are provisions to drug test
recipients, to prohibit the USDA from advertising SNAP in any way, to
change eligibility rules, to bring back the asset test, which would kick
out anyone with $200 in assets, or a car worth more than $4,500. And who
is their leader, the super villain? John Boehner, the speaker of the House!
You know, it might be fun to think he`s the Zod to President Obama`s
Superman. But, really, we think he`s a little more like Gru, you know him,
from "Despicable Me," grand ambitions, minions he can never really keep in
line. Speaker Boehner brought the House`s version of the $940 billion farm
bill to a vote on Thursday, expecting it to pass, and it failed, with 62
Republicans voting against it. The vote was a shock, as usually House
speakers don`t bring major controversial bills to the floor unless they
know they`re going to pass. Republicans tried to blame it on Democrats,
saying they failed to deliver the 40-votes promise. And House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor even said he was, quote, extremely disappointed that
Democrats chose to derail years of bipartisan work. But even if GOP
leadership had those votes, the bill still would have failed.
Now, I certainly don`t envy John Boehner`s job. Corralling House
Republicans actually does seem a lot like trying to rely on an army of
fictional, nonverbal minions who would rather have slap fights than get
anything done. But, still, if you`re going to follow Nancy Pelosi, one of
the most effective leaders in the House`s history, by doing this -- come
on, Boehner, pull it together. As a villain, we can`t even fear you.
Joining me today, Irin Carmon, a staff writer for Salon.com. Mark
Alexander, a law professor at Seton Hall University, and former senior
adviser to President Barack Obama. Aisha Moodie-Mills, a political
strategist, and adviser at the Center for American Progress. And my
favorite Southern Republican, Katon Dawson, the former chairman of the
South Carolina Republican Party, and current chair of Senator Lindsey
Graham`s super PAC. So nice to have you all here.
KATON DAWSON, FORMER CHAIRMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA COP: Great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Katon, seriously, is there any way, because I want to
think that Boehner is just sort of pitiful, but then I keep thinking, is
there, like, is it possible that there`s some strategy here that I just
don`t get? Is there something we can say about what just happened on the
farm bill with Boehner?
DAWSON: Well, there are a lot of things you can say, but certainly, I`m a
fan of Speaker Boehner`s, unlike a lot of our panelists here, but it
doesn`t always work out, whether it`s Tip O`Neill, Newt Gingrich, Nancy
Pelosi, Denny Hastert. That one didn`t fail, but I think at the end of the
day, it was a pretty good process of urban Democrats and rural Republicans
who were representing constituencies came together, 62 conservatives said
no, and the bill failed. That doesn`t mean that the farm debate is going
to be over again.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you don`t bring it -- it won`t be. You`ve got to pass
this bill. But you don`t -- you don`t bring something to the floor that`s
going to have 62 members of your caucus voting against it.
DAWSON: Well, it`s happened before and it won`t be the last time. Let me
give an example of politically what I think happens here. For some of the
Republicans I talked to that voted against the speaker, they certainly
would vote for him to be speaker again. So hanging in the balance is not
his speakership, I guarantee you. It`s a tough job, being speaker. But
what these Republicans who voted for this bill are going to see is typical
things that happen in campaign elections. They voted for indispensables
such as wood-burning heating systems, sheep and goat herding marketing
subsidies, price controls--
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s just a bad bill.
DAWSON: It`s a bad bill.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, it`s a bad bill, but that`s not what killed it.
Right? What killed it was that the cuts were insufficiently draconian,
vis-a-vis poor people.
MARK ALEXANDER, LAW PROFESSOR: Right, the problem here I think that the
speaker has is that the Republican Party is fractured so much. There are a
lot of folks that came up and saw sort of the movement of the Obama
campaign, grassroots movement where people are empowered. And then the Tea
Party rose up, and now you see a split. The Republicans are split. And
it`s impossible for the speaker to keep folks in line the same way. This I
think being somewhat of a surprise for the speaker is a big problem for
him. Because he doesn`t have that kind of control that so many folks have
had in the past over their caucus.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Mark, when Katon says this has happened in the past,
it`s not completely unheard of historically for a speaker to have this kind
of internecine battle going on within his party, and yet often what then
happens is a realignment. Right? When you see this kind of fighting, what
happens, for example, the Southern Democrats shrug their shoulders and all
head over and become Republicans. Are we looking at something where
potentially moderate Republicans will eventually say, hey, you guys can`t
get a debt limit, you can`t get an ag bill, we`re out of here.
ALEXANDER: I think there is no doubt there are some Republicans who are
very frustrated with the way things are going. You know, you hear someone
like Bob Dole, he was the standard-bearer for the Republican Party, who`s
saying, I don`t know what to do with this party. He goes to the Senate
floor to try to get some support and he`s not getting it. That`s just one
example. But I think a lot of people are saying, what is this party
becoming? Republicans who are asking that question. So right now I think
there`s a big battle for the soul of the party, and I`m not sure where it`s
going to end up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Aisha, on this question of the soul of the party, even
beyond the politics of it, whether Boehner is any good at being a super
villain or not, these cuts, the cuts in nutritional aid that are
overwhelmingly to poor children, I just keep wondering, are they getting
away with this as a strategy, as a discourse because we`re in an off
election year, because it`s summertime and there`s no election? Why would
they think that this is a reasonable way to proceed?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, ADVISER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You know, I
think that that`s the question I ask myself all the time. Because luckily,
they didn`t get away with it this time. But all across the country, you
see these very draconian efforts by the Republican Party to, one, really
take things away from poor people. It`s really to me this assault that`s
happening on poor people. And we`ll talk about this later in the show, but
also on women, that I can`t understand who -- if there`s any logic, who the
rational person is that thinks that that is a long-term strategy for them.
Lindsey Graham said it best, was it this past week, said that they are
pretty much going to burn and fall apart, because they are facing this
demographic disaster that they can`t get their arms around. And so, by
attacking poor people, by attacking Latinos, by attacking women, I`m not
really sure why they think that that moves them forward, when everything
demographically tells them that it`s actually going to set them back. And
so, you know, it`s funny that I find myself sometimes empathizing with
Speaker Boehner`s plight, because I -- most people know me, I disagree with
much of the things that he believes in. But I think that he has a real
tough time right now trying to wrap his arms around very extremist factions
of his party that he can`t control. And I think the Republican Party is
just so fractured, like you were just saying, that I don`t think that
anybody can control it right now. And they`re going to burn.
IRIN CARMON, SALON.COM: It`s interesting to think about, you know, how did
they, in the past, sign on to things like food stamps that they oppose.
There was some sort of comity and there was some sort of deal making, you
know, rural states got their crop insurance, they got their subsidies. In
exchange, people with urban districts and with high concentrations of
poverty got SNAP, which is compared to other countries, hardly a generous
program. Very little to live on. Has replaced direct cash payments in
many cases. And so there used to be, you would give me this, I would give
you that. They came perilously close this week to actually getting
something done. Every other thing we`ve seen pass the House has been a
symbolic repeal of Obamacare. It`s been the 20-week ban that`s never going
to become law in this administration. So again, I think the problem is
that everybody sort of has these theatrical ends, where they just want to
seem ideologically pure.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this point you just made, I don`t want folks to miss
this. The ag bill, the farm bill, is the classic -- like, this is what you
teach in sort of American politics 101, to explain how the House of
Representatives operates. To explain what, you know, how you put food
stamps, which are almost 80 percent of the farm bill, right, SNAP is about
80 percent of the farm bill -- you put it into the farm bill, because you
can`t vote against farmers. Voting against -- not voting against farmers
means you get to bring the poor folks along. It is like the classic
example of how the House of Representatives is supposed to work, and it
fell apart this week. But exactly on that topic, as soon as we come back,
we`re going to talk about the other part, the other 20 percent of the farm
bill, with, you know, a farmer. Yes, we`ve got one, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not just superheroes that hide their true identities.
Many villains come in disguise too. Take a look at these Republicans
offering what may sound like innocuous amendments to the farm bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE CONWAY, R-TEXAS: The only way to get out of SNAP reform is to
have the SNAP beneficiaries, which are in every single congressional
district, as opposed to farmers, which are in not every single
congressional district, to bring them to the table. To have some skin in
the game to make sure that their community is getting to their members of
Congress that they want them to get something done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You see, that sounds Clark Kent, sort of mild enough. But
here`s how Congressman Mike Conway`s amendment would really work. It would
automatically cut food stamps by 10 percent if Congress fails to
reauthorize the farm bill. It would literally decimate the program. It
was meant to be a sort of doomsday advice to encourage Congress to act.
But if the sequester taught us anything, it is that doomsday devices can
become a smothering reality. And then there was this guy, explaining his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICHARD HUDSON, R-NORTH CAROLINA: We all agree that we don`t want
children to go hungry. What this amendment is about is making sure that
addicts and criminals are not taking what is not theirs, taking food from
the mouths of these children. Taking food from those who are in need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Congressman Richard Hudson wants you to think that he`s
all about saving the children. His actual plan is to drug test SNAP
beneficiaries, a common sense move, he says -- right. Or a way to
humiliate people and keep them from applying to the program. And oh, by
the way, this tack has already proven a failure. Florida found that drug
testing welfare recipients cost the state more money than it saved. Money
that could have been spent directly on benefits. Now, here`s Majority
Leader Eric Cantor, praising yet another farm bill amendment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., MAJORITY LEADER: This amendment will help reduce
federal expenditures, provide assistance to the states, and most
importantly, it will help struggling families who find themselves relying
on public assistance to get back on their feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And the amendment that Cantor touted? It wouldn`t help
struggling families to get on their feet. It would force them to find jobs
that may not even exist or lose benefits, by allowing states to require
beneficiaries to work. Now, as we know, the House rejected the farm bill
this week. They may try again. And if they do, the bill could come with
even more conservative amendments. Joining us from Richmond, Virginia, is
John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, who has
been closely involved in educating the Congress about the farm bill and its
effect on food stamp recipients as well as small farmers. Nice to have
JOHN BOYD, NATIONAL BLACK FARMERS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: Thank you for
having me, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, you`ve been involved in this legislation. You`ve been
briefing members of Congress about its effects. What has been your primary
message to them?
BOYD: The message is that if they`re going to have federal crop insurance
reform, that it also needs to include small farmers, black farmers,
Hispanic farmers, Indian farmers. And here Congress wants to cut the food
stamp program, SNAP, school lunch program. This is something that should
be looked at very, very closely. The farm bill could be easily split up.
We don`t have to have the food stamp program as a part of the farm bill. I
think it`s a way to actually collude (ph) that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask you about that. If we were to delink them,
right, if we were to take SNAP out of the farm bill, doesn`t that make it
actually easier to kill SNAP? Isn`t it part of the reason why we just
saved whatever there is left of this program, is because it is tied to the
price of milk?
BOYD: What they do is, the farm bill has always serviced large-scale white
producers that produce million-dollar farm operations. And it very seldom
has helped small-scale farmers. And that has been my message on Capitol
Hill over and over again. The farm bill must include help for small
farmers. The top 10 percent and direct payments received over $1 million
per farmer. And I`m saying that some of those dollars need to trickle down
to actual farmers that need the help. Here we are again, servicing the
large scale farmers, the milk producers, the sugar recipients. All those
things are going to remain in the farm bill. And here they are saying that
they`re moving that to the federal crop insurance program.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, John, let me bring in Mark Alexander here for a moment.
Because this point about minority farmers and about small family farmers --
I think of Pigford as one of the great accomplishments of the Obama
administration in its first term.
BOYD: Absolutely, absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mark, tell me, how do we make sure that a farm bill keeps
people like John Boyd, who farms in Southern Virginia, on our radar, not
just these large-scale massive producers.
ALEXANDER: Right. The thing we have to do, we have to make sure that when
we talk about farming, we think about everybody who`s farming, small
farmers to large farmers. But realize that this bill is making sure
everyone is getting something. You know, the corporate giants are getting
a lot out of this. So we can`t sort of say, well, they`re going to get,
and those who are sitting there working their fingers to the bone every day
aren`t going to get it. And so the reality is, we need to build a
coalition if we`re going to say this isn`t just about corporate welfare, to
use the term, this is about making sure that our farmers are taken care of.
The people who are out there every day, who are watching that weather
forecast, not because they want to know whether to bring an umbrella,
because that`s their livelihood. And that`s -- we have to look out how
people every day take care of our needs, the food we have right here on
this table here. We need to look out for the farmers who are really
working themselves. And that`s building coalitions. And that`s a tough
HARRIS-PERRY: So, John, let me ask you about this. Because you are a
farmer, yet you have a particular irritation with Representative Steve
King. Explain to me why.
BOYD: Well, what happened, as I spoke earlier about the federal crop
insurance program. Small-scale farmers have to pay their premium before
their crop is sold. Large-scale farmers get subsidized and they don`t even
have to pay their insurance until after they sell their crop. So I`m
caught between every year, whether I`m going to buy lime, seed, fertilizer,
$3.50 for diesel fuel, or pay a huge up-front premium for federal crop
insurance program. And I`ve been advocating members of Congress to change
that rule so the small-scale farmers can actually stay on the farm and
plant their crop and have federal crop insurance, like large-scale
producers. There`s literally nothing in the 2501 program for minority
farmers to receive outreach. Outreach will give the farmers changes, and
those federal programs on time, so they can sign up on time, and these are
things that members of Congress pretty much just want to wipe away with.
They want to do away with $20 billion to food stamp programs. These are
things that we need to be talking about, and these are things that members
of Congress need to be held accountable, such as Steve King, who advocates
these kinds of initiatives.
HARRIS-PERRY: John Boyd, thank you so much, because I think you brought us
right to where we`ll stop for now, but we will come right back on exactly
that issue. It`s an issue about accountability. Thank you so much to John
Boyd in Virginia for reminding us that, yes, this is about SNAP, but this
is also about farmers.
Up next, House Speaker John Boehner is clinging to his job as Gru to his
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. Because we are talking about superheroes and
super villains and how we`ve cast House Speaker John Boehner in the role of
bumbling, would-be leader of the bad guy minions, Gru, from the movie
"Despicable Me." We even made a funny image of it. See, it`s on the wall
back there. See, it`s funny. Ha-ha. OK.
Now, while the farm bill failed in the House because of Speaker Gru`s
minions, and because they had tacked on so many of their minionesque
amendments, and Speaker Gru suffered a pretty humiliating, it kind of makes
you wonder what the guy is even the leader of kind of defeat, one thing is
clear, John Boehner still wants to be the Gru -- I`m sorry, the speaker.
Which is why when he says when it comes to immigration, it will be his
minions` way or no way. On immigration, Speaker Boehner says he will not
do what he did with the Violence Against Women Act, Sandy aid relief, and
avoiding the fiscal cliff. In all three of those cases, the majority of
the speaker`s caucus voted against the bill, and Boehner needed Democrats
to get sensible legislation passed.
But on immigration reform, he says no. Without a majority of House
Republicans in favor of the bill, a bill which the Senate is working on in
a genuine bipartisan fashion, John Boehner, Speaker Gru, says he won`t even
bring it to the floor. Irin, this strikes me as not just sort of bumbling
politics, but potentially bad policy for the Republican Party going
CARMON: Well, it`s interesting, because with regards to the farm bill,
Steve King said something like, I don`t know why they can`t see the 10,000
foot view. And I feel that that is very relevant as well to immigration.
It`s a tension here between their short-term interests, their nativist
base, their xenophobic in many of these districts opposition to
immigration, and the fact that in the long-term, there is just no path
forward for the Republican Party with its diminishing white male base. So
both of those options are unappealing, both for John Boehner and the
Republican Party, and none of those options I think is going to provide an
easy way forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it also feels to me, both on the farm bill question and
on the immigration question, that there is - the part of what the
Republican Party isn`t called on enough is just their, oh, hypocrisy on
this. I mean, when we look at the farm bill, we have actual GOP
congressmen who receive farm subsidies, but who vote against SNAP. So they
receive subsidies from the government, but don`t want poor people,
particularly poor children, to receive subsidies from the government. On
the issue of immigration, there are said Republicans right now who take
their millions, while not wanting poor children to have lunch at school.
On the other hand, right, when it comes to immigration, there`s a hypocrisy
in saying, we want to grow the party, we want to appeal to more people,
we`re not going to be the party of stupid anymore. And then behaving as
though they are stupid.
MOODIE-MILLS: Right. I think you just underscored it. There`s a whole
short-term piece of this that is really about the politics of it all, that
is really driving what`s not happening in terms of actually passing
sensible legislation. We`ve got a whole lot of Republicans who need to go
through their midterm elections that are coming up. And they don`t want to
have to vote on these really controversial issues because they`re going to
have to go back home and they are going to have to face folks. And I think
the bigger question of the political GOP strategy is that they really
gerrymandered themselves into an untenable situation. Because they`ve
created, they`ve created and made these red districts that are so extremely
red that it gives them the numbers to have the speaker of the House, to
have the majority in Congress, but now, they can`t have district -- they
don`t have districts where sensible Republicans can run and win. And so
there`s really this strife that`s happening on the ground about the
politics and how people hold on to their seats. And they don`t want these
HARRIS-PERRY: Katon, more than once you have said to me on this show, or
in the commercial break on this show, something that just blows my mind. I
am like, oh, that`s the linchpin, that`s the thing that I am missing. Even
as I hear Aisha say, OK, sensible Republicans, I think, OK, but that`s
standing here over on the left looking. Right? And so it does look like a
bunch of slap fighting minions to me. But if I could sort of, if I could
put on my Republican empathy hat and stand, you know, in the middle of the
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s very tiny, but I think there is perhaps some
empathy left. But if it was over there, what would I be seeing? Is
sensible the right word? Is there something going on here that I miss as an
outside lefty observer?
DAWSON: Well, it comes to down to what all politics is all about, the
money. And when you go home to districts and you get in town hall meetings
with Republicans like Mick Mulvaney or Jeff Duncan from South Carolina, or
our friend from Indiana who wanted to separate the bills, you hear what you
said when we opened the show, an insurmountable debt problem. So it
doesn`t matter, this won`t be the last time we`re talking about spending.
I hear it all the time. Folks back home don`t think we have a revenue
problem in Washington. They think we have a spending problem in
Washington. And you hear that from largely the Republican town halls. So
I`ve been in the town hall meetings for these districts that have been
redrawn. And I hear the concerns from everyday Americans in South
Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, and states that I do work in.
And it comes down to the spending. And this is a bill that got caught in
the middle of that. This is $1 billion, $960 billion short. There are all
kinds of things, and I do agree that if maybe we did separate those bills
and we put a spotlight on it, you would find the egregious actions of
members of both sides. But it comes down to these Republicans, these 62
that were elected out of districts. I talked to four of them, and it`s
about spending --
HARRIS-PERRY: But if people think that, if people think -- but if people
think that it`s wrong, right? I mean, it`s not actually -- so, yes, there
was a Tea Party movement that was a kind of up from the bottom angst about
the federal deficit. And I`m not even going to go there on sort of who
financed that movement, but I am just going to say that there was an actual
angst about it. But as we`re going to talk about later in the show, that
is now a misplaced, empirically misplaced angst. The federal deficit is
coming down, government spending is actually not where the sort of
advertising of the Republican Party would suggest it is. And many of these
people who have the angst about federal spending are recipients of federal
spending, without a recognition that they are. Even if they`re just middle
class homeowners who take the mortgage tax deduction, right, they are in
fact getting a federal benefit.
DAWSON: And I have seen it in both meetings. I`ve seen it where everybody
wants to cut everything but their own stuff. And you`ll see it, the most
conservatives or the most liberals, look, I`m all about this, but don`t cut
my program. What has happened now, you said it, an insurmountable debt
problem that these guys have to address.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to take a break, but as soon as we get back, I`m
going to show you why, in fact, good high-quality immigration reform would
lower the federal deficit, right. And also, it`s a bird, it`s a plane,
it`s an undocumented immigrant here to save us all.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know the funny thing about the new Superman movie coming
out in the middle of the latest immigration debate is, well, the
quintessential American superhero, he`s also an immigrant, an undocumented
immigrant, at that! He might even qualify as a dreamer. And so my
question to our favorite Republican guest, who is at the table with me
today, Katon, why do Republicans hate Superman?
DAWSON: Well, I wouldn`t say we hate Superman. Melissa, Superman`s my
HARRIS-PERRY: So you`re down with the undocumented immigrant?
DAWSON: Well, let me just --
HARRIS-PERRY: Whose symbol from his home country is hope. Just saying.
DAWSON: Well, Melissa, now you`ve got me against Superman, you`ve got me
against the SNAP program. All that`s incorrect. I haven`t seen the movie
yet, but (inaudible) before dark, I`ll get to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, good.
DAWSON: But when we talk about immigration reform, we talk about the
immigration debate we did earlier at the break, I`ve seen some of the
rhetoric soften from the hard right side of our party. And I don`t think
we will, as Republicans, and I hope it passes, I don`t think we`ll get
political credit for it. I just don`t. I don`t think we`ll be able to, I
think the president will. It doesn`t matter to me who gets credit. It`s
time. This is our chance to get it done as Americans. And border
security, I saw the price tag, I see the 20,000 agents. I just wish we`d
take those 14,000 IRS agents the president wants and move them over to the
border. That would make us happy on our side.
HARRIS-PERRY: I do not want accountants on the border. That sounds like a
very bad idea. But Mark, the CPO numbers do show us, in an analysis of the
Senate`s immigration bill, that, in fact, we would see a decrease in the
deficit as a result of passing this immigration bill. That it is going to
add 10.4 million people to the U.S. population by 2023, which will cut the
federal deficit by $197 billion by 2023, increasing federal spending by
262, but at the same time, increasing federal revenue by $459 billion.
This is not just a humanitarian bill, this is a good economic bill.
ALEXANDER: It`s a good economic bill. It`s good policy. We`re talking
about the Dream Act. The dreamers are a perfect example. Kids who grow up
in this country and they want to do nothing more than help their country.
They go forward, they go through high school, college, military service,
things like that. They say we want to produce something positive for the
United States of America. That`s something where we need a path to make
sure, and the fact that didn`t get through. I was in the Senate when that
didn`t get through. That`s ridiculous. We have so many people who are
simply trying to do something positive in this country. And we have to
find a way to make this country, you know, we`re always looking for ways to
make the country better. And here are people who are saying, we want to,
despite the odds. Let`s build on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is what makes the Superman narrative work here. Right?
He`s this guy who comes because his parents send him. He has to deal with
all of the drama of being an outsider, but ultimately is maybe the most
American American, right, the most patriotic, the one who has this sense of
sort of what America can be. Now, they talk about it as earth, but earth
always equals America, because, you know, that`s how it works.
MOODIE-MILLS: We are the earth, aren`t we?
HARRIS-PERRY: So it does feel like that, in that sense, our deep American
impulse towards being an immigrant nation is at stake here in this policy.
MOODIE-MILLS: I actually wanted to add one thing to the numbers that you
pulled up. Center for American Progress put out a report about a week ago
on immigration. And we`ve been talking about, you know, this is all about
spending. This is all about needing to cut spending. We were talking
about this during the break, and that`s the Republicans` opposition. In
addition to the numbers that you showed, we found that immigration reform
is going to contribute a net $606 billion to Social Security.
MOODIE-MILLS: So that`s enough to cover 2.4 million baby boomer retirees
over the next 36 years. So if we`re really talking about this, and, you
know, being authentic about the numbers, about actually putting money back
into our economy, then, you know, I think that Republicans, they`re not
necessarily -- they`re being a little bit disingenuous by pretending that
this is going to cost us, whether it costs our values, costs us morally
like you`re talking about, or costs us economically, because it`s not.
HARRIS-PERRY: Aisha, I don`t want to miss out, I want to underline that,
because I think people sometimes have some confusion about how Social
Security works. You don`t save for your own retirement. Today`s workers
pay in, which pays for today`s retirees. We are in this circumstance with
the baby boomers, they are retiring. If what we must have in order to make
this solvent and in order to make this work is more people. We also need
more people and more people paying more into it. But this is, in fact,
part of the solution to this problem.
MOODIE-MILLS: But talking about that would underscore the fact that we are
in this together, right? Which is really at the crux of this immigration
debate. We`re in this together.
CARMON: Another way in which you see this is the struggle over health care
for immigrants. Right? And I say this, I`m a proud naturalized U.S.
citizen, I`m an immigrant to this country and a daughter of an immigration
lawyer. This is an issue very dear to my heart. Let`s say you`re not
talking about the human rights disaster that is our current immigration
state. Let`s say you`re just talking brass tacks and you said you`re
talking about the money. The way that health insurance works, young,
healthy, enterprising immigrants buying into a system. We need them in
there. And instead they want to force them into emergency rooms.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. We need them in. And -- but we`re not
talking about immigrants like you. OK. Coming up later in the program, as
time is running out, to avoid a crushing increase on student loan interest
rates, we are most surely one nation under debt. But first, a letter I`m
actually sad to send, but I`ve got to send it, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here in Nerdland, we love Serena Williams. Remember when we
talked with the "Venus and Serena" filmmaker about what makes these young
women so unique in the world of sports? Remember when Serena was playing
in her French Open match during the show a few weeks ago, we kept flipping
the channel to watch her during our own commercial breaks. We respect and
adore the Williams sisters, which is why it gives me no pleasure to address
this week`s letter to Serena Williams in light of her appalling comments
and halfhearted apology regarding the teen girl who survived rape by two
high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio.
Dear Serena, it`s me, Melissa. I was shocked to read your response to
Steven Roberts (ph) of "Rolling Stone" when he asked you about the
Steubenville rape. According to Roberts, you said, "I`m not blaming the
girl, but if you`re a 16-year-old and you`re drunk like that, your parents
should teach you, don`t take drinks from other people. She`s 16. Why was
she that drunk where she doesn`t remember? It could have been much worse.
She`s lucky. Obviously, I don`t know, maybe she wasn`t a virgin, but she
shouldn`t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her
something, then that`s different."
Honestly, I don`t know where to begin, Serena. There are so many layers of
victim blaming and slut shaming in your words that if I was feeling snarky,
I would suggest you run for Congress, since these ideas make you sound like
the war on women Republicans who are running the place.
But I don`t feel snarky, I feel sad. I`m not sure I can express how much
your accomplishments have meant to so many of us over the years. It is not
just the sheer athleticism and the brilliant strategy and the game-altering
style of your play. We are moved by your uncompromising determination to
be yourself, to embrace and flaunt your whole badass Serena-ness. When we
watch you, it lifts us, it makes us believe in things bigger than
ourselves. Which is why your words stung so much.
We understand you`re a woman who suffers no fools, who abhors weakness, and
believes deeply in personal responsibility. We love and respect you for
that. But you turned those traits against the victim instead of against
the perpetrators. Image if you had demanded personal responsibility from
the rapists. If you`d said, I don`t care if a girl is drunk at a party,
you have no right to touch her without her consent. I don`t care if you`re
young and foolish, that is no excuse for rape. Those boys should have had
parents who taught them to better than to victimize the vulnerable. Where
were their parents when they were out late at night assaulting a girl?
Serena, did you ever question or does it matter to you if her rapists were
virgins or sluts?
Healing from rape is a long journey. One of the most painful parts for
survivors is having to deal with how much we blame ourselves for being
assaulted. For years, we tend to believe we caused it, that we`re bad,
that we`re dirty, that we somehow deserved the abuse. Sometimes we just
need to hear someone we love and admire and trust to tell us over and over
again, it is not your fault. We can`t hear those words enough, because
those are the words that replace the things the rapist said to us. Those
are the words that give us back the power and the willingness to go on and
heal. Serena, your life and accomplishments have been a life of
inspiration for so many. Please don`t use your words to push some of us
back into the darkness of shame. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Let`s take a listen to Republican Congresswoman
Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, speaking with MSNBC`s Craig Melvin on
Tuesday before the House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, R-TENNESSEE: This is something that the American
people have said, you need to do something about this. Women have said,
you need to do something about these late-term abortions. Is saving the
life of women and of babies pandering? Absolutely not. If we sat on our
hands, knowing what we found out through Kermit Gosnell`s trial, knowing
that even his own attorney said 24 weeks is a bad determiner, the law needs
to be moved back to 16 or 17 weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We have become accustomed to the villainous rhetoric from
Congresswoman Blackburn`s male counterparts when it comes to women`s
reproductive rights, but it is troubling to see women clamoring to
legislate other women`s bodies and hinging their decisions on public
opinion and problematic science, and, for example, the fact that, you know,
what Gosnell did was already illegal. OK. These women who are not putting
up with that mess, they live in Texas. On Thursday, more than 700 people
showed up in Austin for the people`s filibuster, an attempt to prevent the
passing of a restrictive reproductive rights bill that would force most of
the state`s abortion clinics to close. Despite the protesters` best
efforts, the Texas House State Affairs Committee approved the three bills
yesterday in a small room and without discussion. The full House will
debate the bills tomorrow at 2:00.
Irin, you were on MSNBC after Congresswoman Blackburn made her statements
about the early -- the late-term abortions.
CARMON: Well, I think there`s some really interesting things happening in
the struggle over abortion rights, in politics right now. And one of them
is that for people who support abortion rights for pro-choice people, yes,
it is really important to call out that there is insensitive talk about
rape survivors, it is really important to point out that these
conversations are dominated by men who are legislating women`s bodies. But
both of those things are easy to superficially fix, which is what
Republicans tried to do this week.
Trent Franks was the one who was in charge of this bill, but they brought
out Marsha Blackburn to manage it on the House floor because they didn`t
want that all-male panel. They hastily added a rape exception, because
they didn`t want to seem insensitive to rape survivors.
To me, the core misogyny of the bill remains, and the arguments have to be
made on the merits. But what`s interesting is when people were asking, why
did the Republicans bring this bill? Well, the answer is, one, here`s
something that their entire caucus agrees on. Two, they are used to having
Republicans be on the offense on abortion rights and Democrats turn and
run. But that is not what happened. Democrats really stood back on this,
and they called it -- they didn`t run scared about social conservatives.
They said, you know, this is insensitive to women. And you had the same
sort of grassroots energy in Texas, that really people are pushing back and
saying, yes, fine, this is uncomfortable later abortions, but we still have
to push back.
HARRIS-PERRY: And look, part of it for me feels that -- this idea of
Marsha Blackburn standing there, doing it, her being the face of it. And
again, my real sadness this week around Serena Williams and her comments
about the Steubenville rape survivor, in both cases, part of what made it
harder to take was the idea that these are women. And I don`t want to be
(inaudible) and assume that all women, because they`re born with certain
chromosomes or (inaudible) or something, will have the same world view, but
you do feel like, don`t you experientially get why you don`t want someone
legislating your body?
MOODIE-MILLS: You know, I think if you kind of step back for a minute and
think about our broader culture, we are subliminally taught as women that
we shouldn`t value and own the space of our bodies. There is really a
social consciousness that is put out there, one, because of the patriarch
and because of the misogyny, like you said, that we should feel some kind
of shame for our bodies. And that begins with the lack of sex education,
sex ed, how we --
HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t even know how our bodies operate.
MOODIE-MILLS: Right. And I think that Serena`s comments, I think that,
you know, Republican women who say these things that seem really counter to
who they should feel like they are inside, is really symptomatic of the way
that our broader society thinks about and treats women. And it`s very sad
and disheartening to me, because it feels like self-hate.
CARMON: To quickly add, Melissa rightly pointed out, it`s not immigrants
like me that they`re talking about, it`s also not women like Marsha
Blackburn who are really going to suffer from these legislations.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Because if you are a wealthy woman with a
private ob/gyn, you will have access to all kinds of reproductive care and
you always will, because they can bill it under something different, they
can do something different. But it`s only if you`re the poor woman, if
you`re the young woman, if you`re the teenager who has to go get care in a
place that`s basically public, right, and where there are going to be
protesters standing outside. So you`re right, it is only--
CARMON: And there`s going to be funding denied for it.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right, all of those. I just - there was the same
week, because part of what`s going on here is about women. It`s also a
lack of understanding about what late-term abortions are. There was this
incredible piece in "The New York Times," an op-ed by a woman who had to
make the decision at 23 weeks to selectively reduce one of the twins she
was carrying, who she desperately wanted, because of the - because the
ultrasound demonstrated that this twin was never going to survive outside
the womb. As she writes, "I believe that parenthood starts before
conception, at the moment you decide you want a child and are ready and
able to create a safe and loving home for her or him. I support abortion
rights, but I reject the false distinction between the terms pro-choice and
pro-life." And it goes on to talk about how to make this painful decision.
The vast majority of late-term abortions are people who want to continue
their pregnancies, but can`t.
MOODIE-MILLS: Which is why there are so few of them that happen. This is
really kind of one of the infuriating things to me about the politicizing
of these issues. One, late-term abortions after 20 weeks are things that
don`t happen very often.
CARMON: 1.5 percent of all cases.
MOODIE-MILLS: 1.5 percent. And the question becomes, this is also a
measure that`s not going anywhere. It`s kind of dead on arrival. Right?
So it really is a message bill. So for me, why would a Marsha Blackburn,
why would the Republicans in the legislature down in Texas, be rushing to
do this? Be rushing to do something that is quite frankly so fringe and
marginalized as it relates to the broader society, as opposed to putting
the same energy to rush and jump and move a jobs bill. Or to do anything
that`s going to benefit the economy. Why is it that these message bills
are the things that they can - that they`re focusing on.
ALEXANDER: They are message bills. It`s an ultimate cynicism. And I`ll
speak as a constitutional law professor for a second. These bills aren`t
going to be constitutional. They will not stand up. So when you get up
and you put something forward that you know is not constitutional, you know
it`s going to fail, right, that`s an ultimate cynicism to me. But I also
think about it as a father. I`m raising girls. I know your daughter as
well. I think about, what are their lives like going forward? This isn`t
something where we should have, as you point out, message bills.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Irin, to Mark, and to Katon, who we let off the
hook for this one. We`ll get him on the commercial break. Aisha is back
later. But coming up, one nation under debt, and an entire generation at
risk of paying the price.
And ahead of the Supreme Court`s ruling on marriage equality, a major sign
of a cultural shift. There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour. Two-
hour show, people. Two hours.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, and I want you to
be quiet. Shh. Do you hear that?
PERRY: Do you hear that, that insistent, incessant ticking. It`s kind of
like a dog whistle. So if you`re like most people, you`ve probably never
noticed it, because it`s also the sound of obsession.
And for you to hear it, you have to be on the same one track mind with our
Congress, for whom a ticking time bomb is the soundtrack to its very
favorite obsession -- our national debt, the trillions of dollars, the
tick, tick, ticking away like so many seconds and minutes on a clock. Only
the big explosion that we`re all supposed to be bracing for is turning out
to be less of a pow and more of a kapoof.
As it turns out, instead of going deeper into debt during the second fiscal
quarter of this fiscal year, the Treasury Department was able to make a
dent in the national debt with a $35 billion down payment for the first
time since President Obama took office. That`s 35 billion ticks off the
clock, in the opposite direction, paying down the national debt.
And then there`s the object of Washington`s other obsession -- the reason
we all need to borrow all that money to reduce our national deficit. Yes,
no big bang there either, because the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, re-
crunched the numbers and found that in 2013, the gap between our spending
and our revenues is expected to shrink to $642 billion, which means that by
the end of the year the U.S. government will run its lowest deficit since
2008. And it means that, for the moment, at least, Washington is enjoying
a blissful reprieve from the sound of all that ticking.
Except that in the meantime, the rest of us have no such luxury, because
the real ticking time bomb, the one we can`t help but hear, more than $16
trillion in personal debt held by individual Americans, owed mostly on one
of the big three -- mortgages, credit cards and student loans.
As of last year, number three on that list moved up to number two. Total
student loan debt has now ballooned beyond the outstanding balance we owe
on our credit cards, to nearly $1 trillion. In fact, it`s now the only
kind of household debt that continues to rise throughout the recession.
And for the first time, the total amount that went unpaid on our student
loans -- and I do mean our, because I am still paying mine -- surpassed the
amount on credit cards that was delinquent for more than 90 days.
While those credit card delinquencies are on the decline, it`s only getting
harder and harder for us to repay our student loans on time. It`s a stark
reminder that we can no longer take for granted the conventional wisdom
about student loans as good debt, an investment in one`s future wealth and
earnings potential, because the conventional wisdom also assumes graduation
from college after four years with a viable degree and a good job, and a
livable wage that allows you to survive with basic necessities and enough
left over to pay back what you borrowed to get that degree. It makes no
allowances for what is increasingly becoming the new normal -- the bulk of
outstanding loan payments going to for-profit colleges where students are
likely to graduate with insurmountable debt and a useless or no degree at
PERRY: Another ticking sound, by now so reliable that you could set your
watch by it, a looming deadline in Congress. An eleventh hour scramble to
come to terms, this time by July 1st. That`s the day, if Congress can`t
reach a compromise, that ticking will culminate in an explosion when
current interest rates on federally subsidized student loans, known as
Stafford loans, double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.
With me now hearing the ticking at the table are Stella Adams, senior
policy adviser for the National Fair Housing Training Academy; Chris Hicks,
organizer of the Student Debt Campaign for Jobs with Justice; Lynnette
Khalfani-Cox, co-founder and personal finance expert of
Askthemoneycoach.net and the author of "Zero Debt for College Grads;" and,
Dan Dicker, principal partner with MercBloc, a wealth management firm, and
senior contributor at TheStreet.com.
It`s so nice to have you all here.
I want to start with you, Lynnette.
We`ve always said that student loan debt is good debt.
Is it now bad debt?
LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX, ASKTHEMONEYCOACH.NET: You know, historically,
obviously, people have said that -- for the reasons you cited, they say,
it`s going to help you to earn a bigger wage. You`re going to make an
investment in yourself.
And I`ve always told people that just like any other form of debt, mortgage
debt, credit card debt, etc. Student loan debt can absolutely be bad debt
if you put it into one of two categories. One, it`s unaffordable for you
to pay back, or, two, you have absolutely no plan for how you`re going to
get rid of it.
You talked about having student loans, and I had $40,000 in student loan
debt when I graduated and got my master`s degree in...
KHALFANI-COX: -- from USC. The fact is, this is a huge problem for a lot
of people. And we can`t automatically say student loans are good -- a good
form of debt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
KHALFANI-COX: -- because it`s simply not the case.
PERRY: But when I look at the speed with which they have -- have
increased, so quadrupling from 2003 to 2013, student loan debt has
quadrupled. This is an unreasonable -- this isn`t like all of a sudden a
whole bunch more people became sort of bad with their money or started
making bad choices.
PERRY: When you look at those numbers, this is for your generation -- I
mean I am before that 2003 -- pretty well before that 2003, right?
When you look at those numbers, for your generation, that is life-altering.
CHRIS HICKS, "JOBS WITH JUSTICE" CAMPAIGN: I mean that`s -- it`s a
completely game changer. And you actually said it, it`s the new normal.
When people my age go to college, the expectation is you`re going to
graduate with all this debt. It`s just the assumption.
So people are having to make the choice of I want a lifetime education, but
that means I`m being sentenced to a lifetime of debt. I mean the average
student is graduating with $27,000. And that`s -- you`re starting so far
behind, like you can`t buy a house, you can`t buy a car. This is changing
how people approach their lives.
And it`s not -- it`s good debt for some people, not the students, it`s
great debt for the banks that go unregulated.
PERRY: Right. It`s great debt for the banks. It`s also great debt for
the -- particularly for the for-profit colleges, right?
PERRY: So even the -- I mean I think sometimes we start thinking about the
USCs or the Dukes or the whatever. But in fact, so much of this money is
going into for-profit colleges, often that take students from the lowest
income communities, often don`t actually get them through in four years.
And so there you have $27,000 worth of debt and you didn`t graduate from
HICKS: And they might not be accredited.
HICKS: And for-profits, it`s actually higher than $27,000. I think it`s
$35,000 for for-profit schools.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
HICKS: Like it`s just unbelievable that they`re taking advantage of these
students. And most of them get pushed into minimum wage jobs and have to
default on their loans within five, 10 years.
PERRY: And, Dan, this isn`t just about how it changes life choices and
options for the millennials. If you can`t buy a house or buy a car, then
what that equals is you cannot stimulate the economy.
DAN DICKER, AUTHOR, "OUR ENDLESS DEBT": In fact, that is the biggest
problem we have right now. And it`s mostly about the jobs market and
what`s been created over the last three or four years because the
unemployment rate has gone so high, it`s become so difficult for people to
get jobs. It`s squeezed down the job market so that only college graduates
are able to get any kind of job, for the most part, even if you want to
slip hamburgers, you need a college education.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
DICKER: Which forces kids into getting, accredited or non-accredited
degrees and taking on this kind of loans and these debts.
Now, we have a problem because, as you say, the interest rates are going
up. And we have a major problem because what`s been made as a sort of
compromise statement in Congress doesn`t become a compromise, because it
goes -- it hangs on a Treasury bill, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
DICKER: So the interest rates that Treasuries are being paid for 10 years
will now get associated with student loans. And as we`ve seen over the
last just three days, there`s been an explosion in the bond market.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
DICKER: We have interest rates that are going to start going higher. And,
in fact, in the next two or three years, most analysts agree -- and I do,
too -- that we`ll see long-term interest rates 5, 6 percent. And that gets
added on to the 3 or 4 percent that this bill is proposing.
There could be a point at which, three or four years down the road...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
DICKER: -- students will be absolutely swimming, unable to capture and pay
back any of this debt with 6, 7, 8 percent, maybe 9 percent interest rates
on these loans.
PERRY: But let -- let me allow Senator Elizabeth Warren, speaking on June
6th, to underline the point that both of you made. Both -- there is this
proposal that`s going the tie student loan interest rates to these variable
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
PERRY: -- making them basically balloon mortgages -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE:
PERRY: -- right, for young people, but also that it is big -- it`s big
business for the banks.
Let`s listen to Senator Warren.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Some have argued that we can`t
afford to keep interest rates low. But let`s be clear. Right now, the
federal government is making a profit from our students. Just last month,
the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the government will make
$51 billion this year off student loans.
Have we become a people who will support our big banks with nearly free
loans while we crush our kids, who are trying to get an education?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Have we become a people who will do that?
STELLA ADAMS, NCRC.ORC: Yes, we have. I mean, we are one of the few
nations in the world that have taken our brightest and best minds, the
innovators of the future, and turned them into indentured servants. We are
-- we are engaged by public policy by deadline. And as a result, we don`t
understand the unintended or intended consequences of these actions.
The federal government doesn`t need to make $51 billion on the backs of the
futures of our children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ADAMS: We need to be creating opportunity for them so that they can be the
innovators of the future.
For example, the decision to change the guidelines for the Parent Plus
Loans. The parents who suffered through the recession lost jobs...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ADAMS: -- lost equity are now being penal -- their children are being
penalized by having these regulations that now make tighter credit
We have 14,000 African-American students attending HBCUS, denied the
opportunity to return to school.
PERRY: Right. Because it...
PERRY: -- the tuition goes up each year.
ADAMS: And because their parents no longer qualified...
ADAMS: -- for the plus loan. And so these students now do not get to
graduate, but still have the debt from the previous stuff...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.
ADAMS: -- and can...
PERRY: And, therefore, can`t get the same kind of jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The jobs.
PERRY: And I just, you know, I keep thinking you were talking about how
the changes -- the choices you make as a millennial. I also think about
what it does if you`re a working class parent, it changes what you can say
to your kid, right?
PERRY: My mom all -- I mean I`m the youngest of five. By the time they
got to me, there wasn`t going to be much money left for college. And my
mom always said don`t worry, just get into the best school you can, we`ll
work it out, we`ll figure out how to pay for it. And I never felt like I
won`t be able to go where I need to go because of -- purely because of
And increasingly, parents are saying, hey, I sure hope you get into the --
into the school that is the cheapest one.
Stay right there, we`ve got more on this. But also, I`m going to ask you
this question -- would you accept a loan with a 650 percent annual interest
Millions of people do every year. And that`s next.
PERRY: Listen up. I`m going to make you a deal that you can refuse. In
fact, it`s an offer so resistible, that you won`t be able to imagine anyone
ever taking it -- a short-term loan that comes along with a $30 fee per
$100 and a 650 percent APR.
PERRY: You can stop laughing now.
Yes, I know it seems like this kind of offer is one that would be accepted
by no one, ever. But, seriously, stop laughing, because like those are no
joke for the 12 million Americans each year who use payday loans -- people
in desperate need of small amounts of quick cash who end up trapped in a
long cycle of deep and never-ending debt.
According to a report from Pew Charitable Trust, only 14 percent of
borrowers can afford enough out of their monthly budget to repay the
average payday loan amount. Many of the loan recipients are among the
working poor, whose incomes and credit histories create barriers to
accessing traditional lines of credit. So payday loan borrowers are also
increasingly cash-strapped millennials. You now, the same underemployed,
overburdened ones with all those student loans, they`re also taking the
payday loans. So they`re getting stuck deeper and deeper in debt.
So it feels to me like, for me, the payday loans and those storefront loan
sharks, basically, as soon as I see them in a community, I know, OK, we are
in trouble here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
PERRY: That`s when you now that there`s not enough to make it check to
ADAMS: Yes. And more and more people are falling into that trap. We sit
here and we have a situation where, for want of $500 in savings, that
should be available through the Earned Income Tax Credit or some other
vehicle, but for want of $500 in savings, we end up in a trap where you`re
repeating and repeating and repeating the loan. And up to 70 percent of
the money they make on these loans...
ADAMS: -- is off of repeat flipped loans, where it`s paycheck to paycheck.
I take it out, I pay it off, I take it out, I pay it off.
ADAMS: That`s how it works.
PERRY: So we were looking -- apparently, it typically costs about $430 to
pay off the average storefront loan within two weeks. But the vast
majority of people who are taking them out can only afford $100, right?
PERRY: So if you can only afford $100, it costs $430 to pay them off, then
you see the majority of borrowers, right, end up borrowing again and again.
So there`s a part of me, Linda, who thinks, OK, this is, you now, your
mama`s, you know, lesson on your knee, number one, with financial literacy,
you never, you know, rob Peter to pay Paul...
PERRY: -- and that whole deal. But the reality is your kid is sick and
all of a sudden you have an emergency room bill. Your car breaks down and
you`ve got to get to work.
You know, these are the realities of our lives.
KHALFANI-COX: A lot of people, myself included, who will say stay away
from the payday lenders...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
KHALFANI-COX: -- it`s going to be a 400 percent, 600 percent annualized
interest rate -- have to understand the fact that there are very few viable
alternatives for somebody who says the repo man is outside my door right
I have to keep the lights on, what do you suggest?
So people who are traditionally under-banked or who are out of the credit
mainstream don`t have very many alternatives. It`s a travesty and a crime
and a shame and a sin and everything else we want to call it, but the fact
is, many of these people are operating under desperate conditions.
And as you said, the young people are also very much increasingly caught up
in this cycle.
I just want to add one other thing in terms of perspectives...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
KHALFANI-COX: -- to kind of bring back our student loan conversation a
We often think that student loan debt is a young people`s problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
KHALFANI-COX: That it`s the 18 and the 22-year-olds. That is so not true.
Student loan debt can hurt you for decades.
PERRY: It`s a 40-year-old person`s problem, because that -- you`re still
KHALFANI-COX: It`s a 50 and 60-year-old. Many older Americans have either
gone back to school, they`re second act people who have, you know, taken on
another career, maybe got their graduate degrees, or they`ve co-signed for
their kids` student loans.
ADAMS: That`s right.
KHALFANI-COX: And so we don`t recognize the magnitude of this problem. It
isn`t just about the 21 or the 22-year-old college grad, it`s about the 40,
50 and the 60-year-old who can`t write it off in bankruptcy court. And If
they don`t pay those student loans and they go into a default, their Social
Security checks get garnished.
ADAMS: Hit. Absolutely. They try to get it all.
KHALFANI-COX: No, it`s absolutely legal...
KHALFANI-COX: -- for the government to take some of your Social Security
check, because you can`t wipe this out in bankruptcy court, like you can,
you know, credit card debt...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ADAMS: And you can`t qualify for certain jobs if you are late on your
student loan debt...
KHALFANI-COX: And in default.
ADAMS: -- or in default. So the students coming out who have gotten their
degree but couldn`t find jobs right away end up in default. They are not
qualified for jobs. And the public and private sector are using this to,
And then people who have lost their jobs as part of this recession are
going back to school to try to retool themselves for the new economy...
ADAMS: -- taking on this debt. And then they have burdened themselves
into retirement. It is an...
ADAMS: -- and yet, this debt has pre-payment penalties attached to it, so
you can`t like refinance -- pay it off without paying a penalty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ADAMS: It has -- I mean...
PERRY: Excuse me, what?
If you pay off your student loan early, if you refinance your house off
your student loan early, if you refinance your house and pay off your
student loan early, you pay a penalty?
ADAMS: Yes. And the college that took out the loan also pays a prepayment
penalty, as well.
But the banks who are making out these loans, they -- the Treasury
Department paid their -- waived their prepayment penalty on their TARP
So they have got us coming, going and in between.
HICKS: I mean this is really cradle to the grave debt. I mean what
PERRY: On purpose, as a matter of policy.
ADAMS: Public policy.
HICKS: But you had talked about like...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow!
HICKS: -- people going back to retool themselves to further their
education, which everyone should have the ability and accessibility to do.
Like, that should be affordable for anyone that needs to or wants to.
But I think about my mom. She finished paying off her college loans the
same year I graduated from college.
PERRY: So, oh, right from one...
PERRY: -- to the next.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
HICKS: So at my graduation party, we had a cake for her and and a cake for
me, where one was the beginning and one was the end.
But it`s -- that`s the economy we live in. So these people are forced out
of being able to participate...
HICKS: -- because you`ll pay this for your lifetime.
HICKS: And when you think about the cost of the loan, the -- what you in
retirements and savings and building up your equity...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
HICKS: -- like, we`re going to wipe out a generation.
HICKS: So what...
HICKS: -- and we have to talk about Social Security, too.
PERRY: Yes. Keep the fire for all of this. We`re going to come back on
this issue. And, also, not only do you have the payday loan and not only
do you have the student loan, which, apparently, is going to go until you
are 79 years old, but also, that mortgage crunch that you`re in, ha, ha,
ha, wait until you hear these confessions from the bank employees
deliberately lying to you about that.
PERRY: What unfolded last week in a Boston federal court could have been a
scene out of a legal drama called "When Good Debt Goes Bad." That was where
former Bank of America employees submitted declarations about being told to
lie to customers applying for loan modifications. The allegations were
part of a lawsuit filed against Bank of America by homeowners, who say they
were unfairly denied mortgage modifications for which they were eligible
under the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP.
For its part, Bank of America responded with a statement saying the
attorneys who gathered the lawsuits are, quote, "Painting a false picture
of the banks` practices," with the promise of a more detailed response in
court next month.
Dan, why is Bank of America so damn evil?
DICKER: It`s all about money. I mean, it`s just quite that simple.
DICKER: It`s -- they have a balance sheet. They have a balance sheet of
mortgages. They have a balance sheet of mortgages that they, in fact, own
and that their customers own. And a lot of them have been less than
stellar performing in the last several years.
So for them, it is a financial decision for them to force people into
foreclosure, which is a simple way to wipe one`s hands clean of a bad note
or a note that has problems attached or a note that has work attached to it
in terms of a modification or a refinancing.
It`s simpler for them to push people into a foreclosure where the note gets
closed and they can start from scratch than it is to actually help somebody
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
DICKER: -- and to keep their home. And that`s what`s been going on here.
These statements that we saw in Boston are not a secret to people who are
in the banking world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
DICKER: We understand that this has been policy, basically, since 2008.
And HAMP, which was a federal program designed to help people stay in their
homes, was something that -- I think they associated $4 billion, but I
think only $130 million or $140 million has actually been used. And that`s
specifically because the banks do not want to use this program. This is a
program that causes them to lose money, lose time, make activity --
actually look to help people in the process.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
DICKER: But, you know, on the balance sheet, it`s not so good.
PERRY: But this is just the thing that I guess feels so obscene about the
student loan question, about the housing question. I mean it is not that
long ago in our history when we what did as a country was to help people
get educations and invest in their human capital and to help people buy
their first homes and stay in them in order to build wealth, because we
recognized that that`s what was good for us as a country.
How do we end up here, in this place?
ADAMS: We end up here through enforcement anemia, deregulation, where
what`s good for corporations -- corporations are people -- is good for the
rest of us, trickle-down, settle down and leave them alone.
We have enforcement agencies who are afraid to enforce. They go and say,
um, can -- would you volunteer to participate in the HAMP program?
ADAMS: The HAMP program is not required as a rea...
ADAMS: -- we gave them the money through TARP.
And then we asked them, could you please make loans to small businesses
with the money we gave you?
ADAMS: And what they said was, no, we`re going to take these bonuses.
And then Treasury said, well, if we don`t let them take the bonuses -- and
let me say that the executives, through TARP money, have received more
money in bonuses...
ADAMS: -- than the victims of the subprime crisis.
DICKER: Two points that need to be made. One, Stella is right. HAMP
would -- I mean TARP would never have been approved without HAMP as being
part of it. So this was something where the banks were really obligated to
do their job on this and have not.
That`s number one.
Number two, in terms of regulatory activity, the state attorney generals
are suing these guys right and left.
ADAMS: Right now.
DICKER: There are 48,000...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
DICKER: -- you know, suits out against Bank of America and Citi and all
the other major banks.
KHALFANI-COX: Yes, Wells Fargo.
DICKER: And the bottom line is, for the banks, this is like a cost of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
DICKER: They don`t care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
DICKER: In the end, the fine will come down.
Will it be $500 million, $1 billion?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, right.
DICKER: They don`t really care...
ADAMS: They don`t care.
DICKER: -- because, in the end, a balance sheet which has $750 billion of
nonperforming loans, getting that to wipe itself clean over the course,
underwater mortgages are a heck of a lot more important than the half a
billion dollars or $750 million they might get fined by any state attorney
PERRY: All right, you guys have got to all come back, because you have --
you`ve now told me that we have a disease, the enforcement anemia disease,
as a country.
I hope you all come back and talk more...
PERRY: -- about debt. There is so much more on all of this.
PERRY: -- to Stella to Chris, Lynnette and to Dan.
And up next, as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on marriage equality, a
stunning change of heart.
PERRY: For nearly 40 years, the Florida-based Christian ministry, Exodus
International, preached that gay and lesbian people could be cured through
some kind of faith-based conversion therapy. Well, the folks at Exodus
announced on Wednesday that they are shutting down and that they are sorry.
As part of the group`s announcement, Exodus President Alan Chambers
apologized to those who have been hurt by Exodus, adding that, quote, "For
quite some time, we`ve been imprisoned in a world view that`s neither
honoring toward our fellow human beings nor biblical."
He continued saying, "From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or
otherwise, we`re all prodigal sons and daughters."
Oh, it`s always that we`re all sinners now.
OK, but seriously, yes. Conservative Christians who once ruined LGBT lives
are now viewing them as human beings and children of God, that`s cool.
That`s a step.
Another step may come next week, when the Supreme Court will issue its
ruling on whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act and California`s
marriage equality ban, Proposition 8, are, in fact, constitutional or
We`ve been waiting for those rulings and for others for weeks. And in that
time, marriage equality has gained further traction on Capitol Hill.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the third Republican in the U.S.
Senate to endorse marriage equality, making it 54. That`s a majority,
folks, of senators who favor it. According to "The Washington Post," after
Murkowski`s coming out in favor of equality, Josh Barro of "Business
Insider" noted the near complete silence from conservative media on the
announcement, writing that they are done engaging with the issue.
But don`t go popping bottles just yet. We know the struggle continues,
because also on Wednesday, a new study from the Department of Housing and
Urban Development revealed that same sex couples face in the rental housing
According to the study, heterosexual couples were favored over gay male
couples in 15.9 percent of tests and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent
So, amid signs of progress, a sign of just how far we still have to go.
Joining me again is Aisha Moodie-Mills with the Center for American
Progress. And joining her at the table is Evan Wilson, president of
Freedom To Marry. Jeff Krehely, the vice president and chief foundation
officer at the Human Rights Campaign, overseeing the organization`s public
outreach and education programs, and Janet Mock, a writer and trans
activist and one of my favorite co-viewers of scandal.
OK, Evan, it is -- it`s the best of times, it`s the worst of times.
How do you characterize where we are right now?
EVAN WOLFSON, PRESIDENT, FREEDOM TO MARRY: Well, it`s definitely not the
worst of times. It is, really, in some sense, the best of times. But as
you rightly said, we want better times. And we need to keep working to
make sure that everybody has the same range of opportunities and choices
and abilities to protect themselves.
And there`s no question that the work to win the freedom to marry has
spurred much of the progress, because it`s actually engaged Americans, and,
indeed, people around the world, in a much deeper conversation, not just
about marriage, but about who gay people are, about why marriage matters,
about family, about love, about connectedness.
And as we`ve advanced toward the freedom to marry, something very, very
important in and of itself, we`ve actually spurred even more progress
toward ending discrimination in the workplace, toward ending violence and
harassment in schools, toward securing protections for seniors.
But we have a long, long way to go. It`s never done and we have to keep
doing. We have to keep our eyes on the prize and keep working.
PERRY: So one of the most annoying moments recently in politics for me was
that Code Pink shout-out of First Lady Obama. And it was irritating to me
because of what it was strategically, but it was right in that it was -- it
felt like the kind of squishing out of the sides of a recognition that
marriage is only one item on a broad agenda. And that even as we`re
starting to get to some kind of consensus on marriage, we`ve got talk about
workplace discrimination and housing discrimination and all these other
How did we end up with that broader agenda, Aisha?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, ADVISOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, you know,
to go back to what Evan said, I think that there`s a catch-22 that
happened. The beauty of marriage is that it did move forward equality for
LBGT people, at least culturally.
But the flip side of that is it`s also distracted from the fact that we
don`t have employment protection. So you see we`ve got now, finally,
(INAUDIBLE) Tom Copper (ph) signed on as, what, the 51st co-ssponser of
ENDA (ph), which would create that federal protection -- workplace
But that`s still less than the folks who support marriage.
And so, you now, we still have a long way to go to educate the general
public about where we are with equality.
I think that what we`re going to see after these marriage cases is a quick
pivot to talk about the concrete harm still that LBGT people face. And
we`re going to talk about that with workplace protections, with HIV, with
LBGT youth homelessness. We talk a lot about bullying, but with
So there are a range of issues that are going to start to bubble up beyond
PERRY: Yes, but I think -- you know, I wonder if part of it is this notion
that marriage creates a space where straight folks can feel some sense of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
PERRY: So your wife, Danielle -- and you are our favorite of any kind of
couple that shows up, mostly because you guys usually come bring gifts.
And so we`re always happy...
PERRY: Right. We`re always when the Moodie-Mills come.
But there`s something about like the notion of the normativity associated
with well, I understand that kind of family. That`s Aisha and her lovely
wife, Danielle. And they come with beautiful parting gifts and all of that
kind of thing.
But what if the kind of empathy that we need is for people who don`t
somehow fit into that normative box for us?
JANET MOCK, TRANS ACTIVIST AND WRITER: I think that`s amazing that you
pointed out that there`s normativity, hetero-normativity and (INAUDIBLE)
normativity, because marriage is not the flagship for all LBGT people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
MOCK: And we need to be very clear about that. And that, you now, I hear
Evan talking about gay people, which is amazing, you know, that that`s his
issue. But I speak on LBGT people, meaning that we are very broad and
there`s many issues that we all need to face. And I think about the right
to marry as something that everyone should have, to have legal protections
for someone that you love. But we also need the extend those legal
protections to people who choose not to be in relationships, or to be in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
MOCK: -- or just to be in a relationship with yourself. So how -- you
know, when we -- we need to speak criminalization and HIV prevention and
youth homelessness, as you brought up, and housing discrimination, and so
many other issues that I think trans, low income and people of color
communities face within the LBGT community.
PERRY: Bruce, it`s also one of -- sort of the great gifts of queer
politics to sort of broader political arenas aw well as, in fact, the
queering of these ideas, these ideas that you make family in different ways
and you -- you cre -- you know, you create this sense of belonging or a
sense of self-identity in ways that, so that if even if you are sis (ph,
and and straight and white, right, that -- that even in all those ways that
the lessons that can be learned from a new way of making family.
So on the one hand like I -- everyone must have the freedom to marry, but I
worry about the compulsion to marry...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
PERRY: -- the requirement of marriage in order to get the kinds of
Is there a way that, as we finally begin to get to a place where even the
Republican senators are on board and the conservative press don`t even want
to talk about it anymore, that we can start to queer our own LBGT politics
as a way of broadening the agenda?
JEFF KREHELY, V.P. HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I hope that is the case,
because there are so many underlying quality of life issues that are really
just not in the dialogue right now about LBGT equality. And it is things
like housing discrimination, youth homelessness and health disparities.
It`s a huge issue for our population. And it just never comes to the top
of the agenda.
So there are a whole range of issues that we could really get into now that
we are the nation`s attention, really, and are building support for
marriage, which is fantastic.
And I`m hoping that it does open the doors to a broader conversation about
what it means to have, you know, basic LBGT equality in this country.
PERRY: Of course, the danger that it feels to me, Aisha, like in the same
way that the civil rights movement managed to build consensus for the end
of segregation and public accommodations, as soon as you start pushing for
economic justice, all of a sudden, it`s oh, no, you`re moving too fast,
you`ve gone crazy, you`re asking for too much. So that`s exactly what I
want to talk about as soon as we come back from the break, the idea that
economic justice may be the next frontier for LBGT politics.
PERRY: Last month, Vice President Joe Biden credited the NBC comedy, "Will
and Grace" with transforming national opinion about gay Americans. It may
have done more than that. "Will and Grace" may also have cemented a myth
of gay affluence, the belief that high income white men, living in hip
urban comfort represent the gay experience.
But in a study released this month by the Williams Institute at the UCLA
School of Law, researchers found that LBGT Americans are more likely to be
poor than heterosexuals, especially if they`re African-American, women, or,
like some of us, both.
The results underscore the importance of the marriage equality debate. In
an interview with "In Plain Sight," the NBC News initiative Reporting on
Poverty in America, Williams Institute Professor M.V. Lee Badgette remarked
that "Marriage is designed to give people a framework for living their
economic lives together, as well as their family`s lives. Not having the
right to marry makes people more economically vulnerable, as well."
So this is part of the next frontier, this question of an economic justice
agenda. And yet it is still tied to the marriage question.
KREHELY: Absolutely. And, you know, getting that story out there and
disputing those myths that people have is such a huge uphill climb for us,
because, you know, people get captured by what is in the media, what is
presented and what is being talked about. And there are so many of these
other silent issues. And poverty is a huge one. And people who are --
tend to in poverty are living in places where it isn`t always safe to be
out, so it even reinforces the closet that they`re in.
And so it`s just this self-perpetuating cycle that we can`t really get off
But it really -- you now, I think, marriage equality will help us in that
regard, because it is a way to have this national conversation about these
issues. And it will get us to those other places.
But then once you start talking about broader issues like economic
security, it just opens the door and, you know, it kind of breaks down some
of the coalitions that have been brought up around the particular issue of
marriage equality just by itself.
KREHELY: Once you start touching these other issues, you have to really
think about how solid is that Republican support?
We`ve got them on marriage, but I haven`t heard anybody speak up, on the
Republican side, about LBGT youth homelessness...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s...
KREHELY: -- which is a crisis in this country.
PERRY: Well, and -- especially for trans youth, or whom homelessness is
absolutely epidemic, and, therefore, all the things that go around with it,
right, the health crisis that`s associated with the likelihood of being
victimized by crime, all of those questions.
So not only the coalition which, say, the Republicans, but also the
coalition within LBGT politics, how to make sure that the resources that
have been mobilized initially around the HIV fight and around the marriage
fight, the "don`t ask/don`t tell" fight, that they end up also addressing
youth who are trans and homeless.
MOCK: Yes. And I think that the legal equality is kind of the first step
toward the beginning of the work that we need to do.
MOCK: There`s still a lot more work that has to be done for the lived
experience for a lot of LBGT people. And I think about -- you know, you
mentioned "Will and Grace." And I think about how far it`s removed from
like one of the first portraits that helped me realize who I was as a young
LBGT person, which I think was Ricky Vazquez...
MOCK: -- on "My So-Called Life."
MOCK: And you think about...
MOCK: I love Wilson Cruz, too.
MOCK: You think about the portrait of that, right?
It`s like the Afro-Latino, gender nonconforming, kind of troubled,
struggling, poor youth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MOCK: Where is that portrait?
How do we go from that to "Will and Grace" in such a short time, that
showed this image of in -- affluence, when it kind of just privileges the
PERRY: And, yes, it matters, right. I mean, I think, again, I made the
example of the African-American civil rights movement. Rosa Parks is
chosen in the context of the Montgomery bus boycott over the young girl,
Claudette, who just the month before had done the same thing, had sat down
on the bus and refused to get up, because she was pregnant and unmarried
and a teen. And so you don`t start a social movement behind her, because
You start it behind Rosa Parks, who is married and hardworking and herself
So there`s a way in which "Will and Grace," you know, go out there and sort
of make the room for everybody else -- or do they?
WOLFSON: Yes, I wouldn`t put too much weight on "Will and Grace."..
PERRY: Yes, no, it`s kind of mean. But I just...
WOLFSON: -- but I think there are at least three different things going...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WOLFSON: -- that we`re talking about here.
One is the absolute importance of not thinking that any one thing, however
big it is, is enough. We all want everything. We all deserve everything.
And we have to fight for every one. And I think we all agree on that.
A second point, though, is that it can`t be either or. We have to not pit
things against each other.
Why would we have a conversation about marriage versus workplace
protections or workplace protections versus support for youth or inclusion
of trans people?
We want all of that.
So why spend our airtime pinning one part of what we want against what we
want, when, in fact, the work to win the freedom to marry is about
something very, very important in and of itself, the freedom to marry and
marriage and the bundle of protections, tangible and intangible, that come
to the most vulnerable, as well as all of us.
But it`s also been an engine for bringing along discussion about the rest
Why do we have to rain on one thing in order to bring some more sunlight on
PERRY: And part of what`s been useful about the freedom to marry has been
the moral and ethical argument around it. So I mean I think that`s part of
what`s interesting to me about Exodus shutting down, is that it was a claim
on the morality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PERRY: And I wonder if that morality can then be spread to say and,
therefore, also protection of LBGT youth and poor people and...
WOLFSON: Exactly. And that was the third thing I wanted to say, which is
that, in part, the reason marriage has been so powerful and resonant and
captivating and engaging and successful at transforming understanding is
because it actually engages people that we need to bring along where they
are and brings them along. You know, we can have a whole conversion that`s
very academic and elite and intelligent and passionate about the things we
WOLFSON: -- in language we all are moved by.
WOLFSON: And that`s great. We`ll get us.
PERRY: Right. Yes.
WOLFSON: We have to reach other people who don`t fully agree with us and
don`t fully agree with us...
PERRY: Yes. Yes.
WOLFSON: -- and who don`t filly share the same language or the same frame,
but can be brought along.
PERRY: I love...
WOLFSON: And that`s what`s so important.
PERRY: I absolutely love that point, that you -- if you make it, you can
either have Jesus or you can have equality, people will pick Jesus. And so
you`ve got to make an argument that the lord would like the equality to
Thank you all for being here.
PERRY: And, in fact, Aisha, Evan, Jeff and Janet, you guys are a great
panel. More, more, more.
But after the break, I want to talk a little about someone else trying to
reach people where they are. On a hot day, what more would a person want
than lemonade from a 5-year-old`s lemonade stand -- a lemonade stand that
raised 21,000 for peace and equality? Our Foot Soldier is next.
PERRY: Back in March in our Foot Soldier segment, we brought you the story
of Aaron Jackson. Aaron, through his non-profit organization, Planting
Peace, purchased a house in Topeka, Kansas, across from the hate group,
Westboro Baptist Church. That`s the church that protests homosexually by
intentionally disrupting the funerals of fallen military service members.
Well, Aaron and his team painted the house across the street from the
church in rainbow colors of the gay pride flag and dubbed it "The Equality
Not only does the Rainbow House stand as a symbol of peace and opposition
to hate, but Aaron`s group also raise funds for LGBT equality and anti-
Which brings us to this week`s Foot Soldier.
Kansas City-based John Sink (ph), the founder of a philanthropic arts
group, saw the news of The Equality House in March and he felt moved by the
little rainbow house that could.
John showed pictures to his 5-year-old daughter, Jayden (ph), who
absolutely fell in love with the colorful structure and its message of
So john promised his daughter that when the weather improved, they could go
visit. Meanwhile, little Jayden was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug
known so well to 5-year-olds and asked her father if she could start a
And that`s when an idea was born into John`s mind, to combine the promised
trip to The Equality House with Jayden`s desire to sell lemonade.
John coordinated with Aaron Jackson and the plan was in place. Last
Friday, 5-year-old Jayden and her father drove to Topeka and set up her
lemonade stand in front of The Rainbow Pride House. Even as temperatures
reached 94 degrees, Jayden diligently sold lemonade to the visitors to the
house. And not just any lemonade, pink lemonade.
Planting Peace promoted the stand online, which led to a good turn out,
including soldiers from nearby Fort Riley military base, who came to
support Jayden`s stand.
And even though members from the hateful Westboro group emerged to yell
slurs at customers, little 5-year-old Jayden stood her ground and continued
to sell her pink lemonade at the suggested donation rate of $1 a cup.
She raised $170 in cash, but that is not all.
Aaron`s team created a Crowd Rise Web site so that people around and
outside Topeka could donate to Jayden`s lemonade stand even if they
couldn`t drive there.
And as of this hour, the site has raised almost $21,000.
Jayden and her father, John, are thrilled with the money raised and are
donating all of it to Planting Peace, to support their mission of spreading
peace, for showing his daughter how love beats hate. And for selling pink
lemonade for peace, John and Jayden are our Foot Soldiers of week. But
wait, there`s more. The Equality House is the little house that keeps on
giving. In anticipation of the upcoming Supreme Court decision about
marriage equality, Planting Peace will be holding its first ever same sex
wedding, tonight, in the front yard of the beautiful Rainbow House.
To read more about this week`s Foot Soldiers and The Equality House, please
log onto our Web site at mhpshow.com.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you tomorrow, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
The author of "Newsweek" magazine cover, "The Fight for Black Men," is
going to be here and we`re going to have a discussion that you do not want
to miss about the state of black men in America.
But now it`s time for a preview of "Weekends with Alex Witt" -- hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you. Thank you so much, Melissa.
Well, everyone, a big decision within the past couple of hours. This from
one from the judge in the George Zimmerman trial. It involves that 911
tape from the night Trayvon Martin was killed.
The fight over food stamps -- I will talk with a Democratic Congressman
about the GOP effort to cut $20 billion from the program and where that
fight is headed.
Believe it or not, there`s already a made for TV film of the Jodi Arias
saga. It`s going to air tonight and I`m going to talk with the
screenwriters of that.
Paula Deen, she put out two videos apologizing for using racial slurs. How
sincere did she come off in those and what`s next?
We have those stories over the next couple of hours. Don`t go anywhere.
I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2013 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.