November 9, 2013
Guest: Avik Roy, Claire McKenna, Peter Goodman, Heather McGhee, Susan
Siprelle, Ric Esther Bienstock, Lois Uttley, Brian Stiltner, Teresa
Younger, Otis Brawley, Heather McGhee, Debra Stulberg, Avik Roy, Matt
Zeller, Janis Shinwari
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question -- you pay a
hundred bucks for yoga pants. Shouldn`t they last?
Plus, why the policies of the Catholic Church may be a matter of life and
death for you, even if you`re not Catholic, and, why the real question of
who can get health care has nothing to do with the Web site.
But, first, pour yourself a bowl of breakfast cereal. It`s time to talk
about the economy.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Halloween may be over, but some
of you are still coming down off a sugar high after indulging your love for
creepy characters. You know who you are. The ones who upon discovering
that General Mills was releasing its classic monster cereals for a limited
time only for Halloween, booked to the grocery store to horde as many boxes
We`re connecting with old friends like Count Chocula, Boo Berry,
Frankenberry and even the return of Fruity Yummy Mummy, which disappeared
from the shelves in 1992, and Frute Brute, which hasn`t been seen in the
cereal aisle for more than 30 years. Of course the nostalgia for these
classic cereals, isn`t just fueled solely by colorful cardboard boxes,
because you can`t separate the childhood memories of eating those cereals
from what motivated you to want them in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankenberry has strawberry flavored sweetness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Count Chocula has chocolate sweetness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Boo-berry, blueberry flavored sweetness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It just seemed that commercial inspires a Pavlovian craving
for frosted blueberry cereal, congratulations. You`ve just learned a basic
lesson in Economics 101. One of the first things any beginner econ student
learns are about the fundamental rules of supply and demand, supply, the
quantity of a product or service offered by the market, supposedly driven
by demand, the desire for that product by consumers. But econ students
also learn about the exceptions to the idea that supply responds to demand.
Most notably cereal. Because the wall of boxes that confronts grocery
shoppers in the cereal aisle isn`t driven by demand. It`s the supply of
the government-subsidized cheap corn that`s keeping those shelves full.
And the demand comes not from what`s in the boxes so much, as what`s on
them, created by the marketing that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy when
you hear that Count Chocula wants to eat your cereal. All of which has
boosted cereal sales well above $7 billion annually and made cereal more
consistently profitable not only for other food categories, but more than
most sectors in the economy, which is why the latest news on America`s
beloved breakfast foods has me questioning the conventional wisdom about
our economic recovery.
This week, Kellogg`s, the world`s largest maker of breakfast cereal,
announced lagging cereal sales are forcing the company to cut seven percent
of its workforce, a total of 2,000 employees will be losing their jobs.
Kellogg`s shrinking sales and declining demand are part of a trend that has
plagued the breakfast cereal industry for the past three yes. It turns
out, consumers these days are deciding that no amount of fuzzy feelings for
the characters on the front of the box is worth the five bucks that it
takes for them to take it home, which makes me reconsider a few things we
thought we knew about how our economy works during recovery.
For example, brand loyalty. I mean it seems to no longer be working for
breakfast cereal as an industry and maybe it`s not working so well for the
economy either. In 2011 - a 2011 survey from comScore, which measures
consumer behavior, found that the percentage of consumers who reported
buying the brand they most wanted declined from 54 percent in 2008 to 45
percent in 2010 to 43 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, 38 percent said they
bought whatever comparable brand was on sale. And 19 percent just bought
whatever product was cheapest. So perhaps it`s not enough to create
demand, to drive economic recovery when consumers don`t have the money to
spend on the things that they want. And you know what would give consumers
the money they need to buy the things that they want to drive the economy
towards full recovery? Jobs, jobs with a living wage and a reasonably
secure future allowing workers to open their wallets and buy everything
from breakfast cereals to new homes. The new job numbers just released
yesterday tell an interesting tale.
Unemployment ticked up to 7.3 percent even though employers added far more
jobs than economists have predicted, 204,000 new jobs, but government jobs
slipped by another 12,000, meaning nearly 100,000 public sector jobs have
been lost this year alone. Americans are hungry for substantive work.
Steel-cut oatmeal with bananas, if you will. But our Froot Loops lawmakers
are on a short-term sugar high of deficit reduction. And on Friday,
economist Paul Krugman wrote, "The bitter irony, then, is that it turns out
that by failing to address unemployment, we have, in fact, been sacrificing
the future too. What passes these days for sound policy is in fact a form
of economic self-mutilation will which will cripple America for many years
to come." President Obama echoed that sentiment during a speech in New
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The first thing
we should do is stop doing things that undermine our businesses and our
economy over the past few years. This constant cycle of manufactured
crises and self-inflicted wounds that have been coming out of Washington.
And it`s like the gears of our economy, every time they are just about to
take off, suddenly somebody taps the brakes and says not so fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me today Avik Roy, senior fellow at the Manhattan
Institute and former policy adviser to Governor Mitt Romney. And Claire
McKenna, policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project. Peter
Goodman, executive business editor and global news editor of "The
Huffington Post" and author of "Past Due: The End of Easy Money and the
Renewal of the American Economy." and finally, Heather McGhee, the vice
president of policy and outreach at Demos. So nice to have you all here
with your bowls of Froot Loops in front of you.
Peter, what are the things that we think we know about economic recovery
that this particular long-term sort of limping along economy are
challenging us on?
PETER GOODMAN, ECONOMICS JOURNALIST: Well, this recovery -- and I would
put that in quotation marks .
GOODMAN: beggars the concept of recovery. It`s been a recovery for the
same people who benefitted from the bubbles that preceded the recovery, the
dotcom bubble, the housing bubble. I mean if you are well educated, if you
are in the upper income strata, you have done very well in the last few
months. The stock market has done well, housing prices are recovering,
unemployment has never been all that high for you and now it`s coming down
and the opportunities are coming back. Now, if you`re in the camp that
never got the upside of the bubbles and then suffered a calamitous
downside, which is to say people who have seen -- and we`re talking, you
know, 80 percent of the labor force who`ve seen stagnation and outright
declines in their wages for 25-plus years.
GOODMAN: Then what you`ve got now is more of the same. You`ve got very
limited working opportunities. You`ve got few opportunities to increase
your wages. Meanwhile, health care, housing, education have gone up
historically and you are in the same squeeze that you`ve been looking at
now for decades.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, one of the ways that we used to think we could kind of
juice the economy or sugar it up a little bit, give it a little breakfast
cereal, Heather, was that we know that people who are poor or living right
at the margins at the frontier of their income, if they get just marginally
more income, we know that they will go spend it, right? They`re not going
to save it, they`re probably not even going to use it to pay down debt.
They are going to use it on consumer items and that usually gins up the
economy a bit. Is there something that you saw in yesterday`s job numbers
that suggest to you either that we`re not doing that or that doing that
doesn`t seem to be working?
HEATHER MCGHEE, V.P. POLICY AND OUTREACH DEMOS: We`re simply just not
doing enough of it. I mean that idea that the best way to feel the
recovery is to get more money into the hands of people who spend it has
become ideologically divided, right? You had this consensus, even with the
Bush administration giving out the stimulus checks at the end of its term.
And then you, of course had the Recovery Act, which did that, which was a
really beautiful act of legislation that really tried to make sure that
people who are going to spend the money, that people who are most
victimized by the recession had from food stamps to housing assistance to
direct job creation was really oriented there and that`s where you get the
most bang for your buck.
But since, basically, 2010 when the Tea Party took over, you`ve had this
sort of ideological drive to actually take, literally, food out of the
kitchens of the people who most need it with the food stamp cuts, with
sequestration, and so we are seeing that exactly as the president said,
that break, that is really ideological and mean spirited is actually what`s
causing the slow in the recovery.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you about that ideological aspect,
particularly the extension which - I think even we heard from the
president`s administration early on, a discourse of a need to do two
things. To reduce the deficit and to cut spending, and that those things
would generate more profits, for a private industry, create more security
within the business community and make more jobs. But the deficit is
ticking down pretty dramatically. We have made enormous cuts as a result
of sequester and in fact jobs are - I mean we saw unemployment tick up by a
tiny bit in this last quarter. Isn`t that indicative that that ideology is
simply empirically false?
AVIK ROY,THE MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: I wouldn`t say that. I mean I would
agree with Peter`s characterization, which is that we`re seeing a two-
tiered recovery. The investor class is doing very well because of the
sugar high of monetary policy. The Federal Reserve is pumping money into
the economy and that`s particularly benefiting banks and investors and
people who own housing. But for the middle class, they are being hammered
by the fact that the cost of hiring people has increased because of
expanded regulations, expanded taxes on smaller businesses and that`s
what`s making it hard for businesses to hire. So, what you`re seeing is, a
lot of businesses aren`t hiring or they are moving people to part-time
work, and part-time work is less stable.
HARRIS-PERRY: But businesses are hiring. I mean that`s part of what those
numbers show. We were expecting about 120,000 new jobs. We ended up with
204. But yet we still see unemployment tick up, in part because it`s the
public sector that is shedding them. And that`s not about increased
regulation, which would make more government jobs if there were
ROY: But the government .
MCGHEE: You would also stick with the story that you`re telling that
corporate profits weren`t at near record high. So, the story that
businesses really just don`t have the money to hire people because of the
onerous regulations and taxes .
ROY: That`s not what I said.
MCGHEE: . isn`t borne out by corporate profits being at a record high.
ROY: So, the thing is, that there`s uncertainty in the economy, right?
There`s uncertainty about regulation, there`s uncertainty about future
taxes due to fiscal instability, and people are saying if my taxes are
going up next year or the year after, do I want to invest in hiring
someone? Well, that`s a long term.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I certainly agree that uncertainty is high, but I
might suggest that I think that uncertainty comes from things, for example,
like the government shutdown. Well, stay on that. But I want to ask one
quick question before we go to break here, and that is, aren`t some jobs at
this point, part of what we saw this week, they`re kind of like Count
Chocula, they are just not coming back. So, we saw Blockbuster close down
this week. I mean is the other sort of thing we need to think about is
what sorts of jobs are even possible to create.
CLAIRE MCKENNA, POLICY ANALYST NELP: That`s right. I mean what we have,
we`re facing now is an issue of sort of the quality of jobs that are being
recovered. So the last few months certainly showed strong job growth, but
the kinds of jobs that have come back, you know, they pay low wages, they
don`t provide an opportunity for, you know, really career advancement,
although we are seeing people really more and more spending their careers
in these low-wage jobs. So, yesterday we`re seeing, you know, in this
report the return of jobs in the retail sector, for example, in restaurants
specifically. And again, these are lower quality jobs, lower paying jobs
that are really sort of dominating our recovery.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. When we come back, more and more people think
that it is time to raise the minimum wage. We`ll talk about that on the
other side of the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s been nine months since President Obama issued his call
to Congress in February in his State of the Union address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Tonight, let`s
declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full-time
should have to live in poverty and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an
hour. Let`s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living so that it finally
becomes a wage you can live on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I love being (inaudible). Look, since then, Congress has
responded to that call, well, pretty much with the same nothing that
they`ve done about the federal minimum wage since the last increase in
2007. But this week, the minimum wage got some attention in Washington as
the White House threw its support behind a Senate bill that would increase
the current $7.25 federal wage to as much as $10.10 per hour. Democrats
may advance the bill to the Senate floor before the Thanksgiving break
according to Politico.com. But without support from Senate Republicans,
the bill would fall short of the 60-vote super majority needed to break a
Unfortunately for workers - the state - excuse me, fortunately for workers
the states aren`t simply waiting on Congress to act. On Tuesday, New
Jersey became the fifth state to add a minimum wage to its constitution
after voters approved a ballot measure to increased the state`s minimum to
$8.25 an hour. The vote also made New Jersey the 11th state to implement
automatic minimum wage adjustments tied to the increase in inflation.
So, Heather, how much would a minimum wage hike impact sort of what we`re
seeing in terms of economic recovery?
MCGHEE: I think it would be an enormous boost to the economy, it would add
millions of jobs in the subsequent year. And what`s so important also in
addition to the economic impact, I have to say, is actually that it would
tell Americans across the country, not just the ones who have been able to
get out and basically raise their own wages by doing ballot initiatives as
states have done, that Congress actually cares about someone other than the
donor class. Because the president could say that statement and have a
round of applause and have the dial tests to go up because 80 percent of
the general public agrees that no one should work full-time and be in
poverty. That just seems deeply un-American to people. But in the report
that you actually profiled last year that Demos did call "Stacked Deck," we
looked at what the donor class thinks about issues like that, and actually
the people who give the majority of donations to campaigns are actually
opposed to that very principle of people being able to work full-time and
not be in poverty.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean Avik, almost always if we do a minimum wage
story, what happens is someone brings a small business owner, almost
always. In fact, the same small business owner to the table and they say,
you know, if you raise the minimum wages I`m not, you know, if you raise
the minimum wage, I`m not going to be able to hire, it`s going to have this
negative impact on my business. And then increasingly we`re seeing reports
that say, no, actually, that`s not what happens. We`ve seen minimum wages
increase before. Is it just an ideological question about the
unwillingness to raise the minimum wage?
ROY: No, so the empirical literature is pretty overwhelming that if you
increase the cost or increase minimum wage, you increase the cost of hiring
and therefore you have less jobs. If I have 100,000
GOODMAN: That is (inaudible) untrue.
GOODMAN: I mean that`s just simply .
ROY: Overwhelmed .
GOODMAN: That if flatly untrue. If you can look at the literature.
Washington State, to pick one example, the minimum wage went up, employment
went up. I mean that`s just not true.
ROY: To repeat, the overwhelming economic literature is that high -
raising the cost of .
GOODMAN: Saying it twice doesn`t make it true.
ROY: It`s the truth.
GOODMAN: It`s a lie that`s at the heart of the war on the .
ROY: You can interrupt me, but the thing is we can - we`ll have the
opportunity now with New Jersey. We can see if New Jersey`s economy, what
happens to those minimum wage jobs. 99 percent of all full-time jobs pay
more than minimum wage. So, what you`re doing is you`re affecting things
at the margins for young people who have higher unemployment .
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s not - it`s not young people. I mean, you know,
I know that story, and there was a time in America where that was -- when
that was accurate, when it was young people working, you know, seasonal
jobs for minimum wage, but increasingly, it`s actually people making their
whole lives on minimum wage.
MCKENNA: That`s right. I mean overwhelmingly, a majority of adults, of
people earning the minimum wage are over 20 years old. And, you know, most
of the rigorous economic research over the last 20 years shows that minimum
wage increases really have no discernible effect on job loss.
MCKENNA: The thing is you have to consider, too, that there are, you know,
efficiency costs to consider. I mean, while, you know, there are costs
related to obviously paying workers wages that they, in fact, deserve and
could live off of, you know, there is - paying workers more, it decreases
turnover, for example. And workers are going to increase their
productivity because, you know, if you`re getting paid more, you`re frankly
just more willing -- you know, you have the incentive to do your job.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me ask about something that always surprises me that
it`s not sort of bipartisan and not ideological, and that`s about
infrastructure. I want to listen to the president standing in my hometown,
in New Orleans, in a place where infrastructure is a big deal and talking
about infrastructure yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Think about our infrastructure. In today`s global economy,
businesses are going to take root and grow wherever there`s the fastest,
most reliable transportation and communications networks. They can go
anywhere. So ?hina`s investing a whole lot in infrastructure. Europe is
investing a whole lot in infrastructure. And Brazil`s investing a whole
lot in infrastructure. What are we doing? Nationally, we`re falling
behind. We`re relying on old stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Peter, particularly with Governor Christie being re-
elected by such huge margins in New Jersey .
HARRIS-PERRY: . after having turned down federal infrastructure dollars,
why isn`t infrastructure the thing that brings everybody at the table
GOODMAN: This is the low-hanging fruit of this conversation. I just came
back from a week in China, actually, where, in fact, you know, the
manufacturing economy has been boosted for 20 years because of a very
intelligent government-led, now maybe excessive, but nonetheless useful
investment in infrastructure. If you build roads and ports and highways
and you upgrade schools and you invest in innovative capacity at
universities, you will get better ideas, you`ll get the ability to ship
products from places where products can`t reach, so, you actually get the
market efficiencies that market fundamentalists are preaching about all the
time with merit. You`ll get more jobs. You`ll get more growth. And the
dollars that you pay construction workers will cycle through the economy
and create more opportunities for others.
I think the reason why we haven`t gotten infrastructure is because the
business class that`s in a position to push for it would rather harp on,
oh, regulations and taxation are stifling the economy. They know that`s a
false narrative. But they like the money in their pocket. The individuals
who are sitting at the tops of large corporations, who have the points out
have been raking in massive profits, they like the low tax rates and
they`re willing to trade economic growth for the rest of us for their own .
HARRIS-PERRY: Even in the long term, obviously, infrastructure certainly
benefits corporations. Stick with us. I want to talk about one more
disparity that exists within our changing economy. There are some
extremely white jobs in America. You might be surprised to find out which
professions have the fewest black and brown folks in them. But the trend
is no coincidence.
HARRIS-PERRY: The story of unemployment in America is told largely in 30-
day increments, on the first Friday of every month when the Bureau of Labor
Statistics releases its monthly jobs report. But beneath the headlines
about jobs added and percentage point increases, is the more persistent
truth about the American labor market. Black unemployment is higher than
Hispanic unemployment, which itself is higher than white unemployment.
This hasn`t just been true for the last year or the last decade. It`s been
true for the last four decades and beyond. Since 1973, the story of the
U.S. workforce has always looked like this. Unchanging racial
stratification, in which African-Americans have consistently had the
highest levels of unemployment followed by Latinos with the lowest rates of
joblessness among white Americans. That graph, and sort of its consistency
over the course of the past four decades mean that these job numbers always
mean something different for different communities.
GOODMAN: Right. And, in fact, one of the things is worth pointing out is
that the loss of government jobs has hid African-American communities
particularly hard because, you know, legacy of systematic discrimination.
I mean, for long periods of time, African-Americans and still to this day,
of course, were barred from the same opportunities in the private sector,
so a lot of people would strategically get jobs in the public sector as
that was the way up.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause here for a moment because I know people
don`t always believe that when you say there is, you know, active
discrimination in the private sector, look, that`s just not true. This is
- so, I just want to show, this is one of my - just favorite findings, it
was reported this week in "The Nation" in an article called "Boxed in," how
criminal records keep you unemployed for life. But it`s data from my
colleague at Princeton, Devah Pager, a sociologist. And it shows that when
you look at criminal records, the likelihood of getting a callback on a
resume with a criminal record, white folks with no criminal record did
about 34 percent of callbacks. That`s the highest. But white Americans
with a criminal record get 17 percent callbacks whereas African-Americans
with no criminal record get only 14 percent. So in other words, to be
white with a criminal record is still better in private employment
opportunity than to be black without one.
ROY: You know, one of the things that was interesting about that chart you
have, it was that Asian unemployment was lower than white unemployment.
And I think that`s something that`s nice, that the Bureau of Labor
Statistics is now measuring, because for a long time they didn`t measure
the difference between Asians and -- I think it`s important to understand
that to degree to their ethnic disparities or racial disparities, Asians
are actually doing pretty well, and that`s worth studying, it`s worth
learning why Asians are doing well and outperforming whites on a lot of
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Although it is true that in terms of wealth, so
that`s the unemployment numbers, but in terms of wealth, we saw actually a
faster decrease of Asian-American wealth in the context of this particular
economic downturn. And we know that wealth is that cushion that protects
people from economic downturns.
MCKENNA: I actually just want to echo the point that Peter earlier made.
You know, we`re seeing these austerity measures and public sector layoffs.
They are really having a serious impact on the African-American community.
Something like one in five jobs lost at the state and local level resulted
in a pink slip for African-Americans. And they are now suffering from
disproportionately higher rates of long-term unemployment, and particularly
in this great recession.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s also - it`s worth something that president
yesterday in New Orleans labeled immigration as like the second most
important thing -- immigration reform, second most important thing we need
to do for the economy. Why is that? Why would immigration reform make a
MCGHEE: Immigration reform would make a difference for a number of
reasons. First, there has been this downward pressure in the low-wage
sector of the economy because of the fact that you can hire someone who has
basically no civil, economic, or social rights, and so you can, you know,
pay them, you know, wage that is rampant among immigrant - undocumented
immigrant heavy industries like retail and restaurants. And it would also
create a higher floor. And it would create job growth because you would
have a lot more wages in the hands, again, of people who are going to spend
HARRIS-PERRY: To go spend it. Stick right there. There`s one more set of
numbers I really want us to look at when we come back. It`s the employment
numbers that we saw this month and the upward revisions for the previous
two months, although they were undeniably strong, there is a particular
group that is being left behind. Who they are, why, and all of that when
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: For the long-term unemployed, those who have been out of
work and searching for a job for at least 27 weeks, federal unemployment
insurance has been a critical lifeline to surviving joblessness. And by
the end of the year, if Congress fails to reauthorize federal jobless aid,
1.3 million workers will see their lifeline suddenly cut off. By March of
2014, that number could increase to an additional 850,000 workers who will
exhaust their state unemployment insurance and have no access to federal
aid. Among that population of long-term unemployed are some of the middle-
class workers who have been hardest hit by the recession, the 3 million
members of the baby boom generation workers, over 50, but still far from
retirement who suddenly find themselves jobless after a lifetime of
employment. The story and struggles of some of those Americans is told in
the documentary film "Set for Life."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, you know, figured that I would work probably till 67
or 70, whatever, and, you know, everything would be like what the last
generation. But it hasn`t worked out that way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m educated. I`m knowledgeable in my field, and I
still don`t have a job. And it`s frustrating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never in my wildest dreams thought at age 50 that I`d
be out of work for an extended period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The producer of that film Sue Siprelle, is joining me here.
Sue, your film really challenges our idea of who the unemployed are.
SUSAN SIPRELLE, PRODUCER "SET FOR LIFE" DOCUMENTARY: Well, first of all,
Melissa, thank you very much for having me on the show today. And that was
part of our intention, to really break down people`s perceptions about the
unemployed, and especially the older worker who lost his or her job after
the age of 50. Mostly, the consequence of the Great Recession, that`s what
our film concentrates on.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, when we look at that and we look at how those over
55 are kind of hard hit in this moment - what are the key aspects that are
hardest hit for them?
SIPRELLE: Well, we did 100 interviews with people over the age of 50 who
lost their job in the great recession. Between 2010 and 2012. And so the
first thing that happens obviously is they lose their job. They lose their
health insurance. And then they have to dip into their savings to pay for
their bills and their mortgage. And at the time home prices were declining
in value, so they didn`t have the option of selling their home. Many of
their homes were under water. We know foreclosure rates in the U.S.
skyrocketed. Five percent of Americans lost their homes and five percent
of our original 100 interviewees lost their homes. And these are all the
kind of economic data points. I`m not talking about the personal .
SIPRELLE: And familial, emotional, and health consequences that long-term
unemployment had for older workers.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what kinds of solutions exist? I mean how can
government policy generate incentives to hire particular classes of
workers, particularly workers like the long-term unemployed over 50?
MCKENNA: Well, I just want to first, though, note the impact of, as you
said, of the expiration of federal unemployment insurance benefits. Over 2
million long-term unemployed workers will be impacted by the end of March
if Congress fails to act. And the fact is our economy is still much too
weak for this critical program to go away. Long-term unemployment is still
three times higher than it was when the recession began. And we hear from
so many long-term unemployed workers that, you know, the fact of extended
unemployment itself just becomes a distinct obstacle to working again.
And it really is all about spurring demand, and at least in the short term
what we can do is at least make sure that people who are out of work have a
strong safety net to get by.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we are talking about discrimination around questions of
race, but there`s also kind of ageism and an assumption that you don`t want
a 50-plus worker.
GOODMAN: Enormous. I mean we know that, you know, IT is a huge fast-
growing industry in this country. You need to know how to use a computer
and the latest software. I`ve had employers tell me, you know, on the
deepest of background that if they`re looking at a resume from somebody
who`s been out of work for six months or a year or more, they assume that
they`re not current on the latest technology, I mean whether that`s fair or
not. And I`ve had lots of people, you know, like the people profiled in
this really important film, you know, talk about the hopelessness of
knowing that -- if they can`t even get an interview, I mean, stories are a
legion, people go months with no callbacks whatsoever. And when they do
get the callbacks there`s a palpable sense of disappointment from the
person sitting across the table. It`s just an assumption that, well, you
know, if you`re already middle-aged you`ve probably lost your mojo and
that`s not something that you can recover from regardless of your skills.
HARRIS-PERRY: As opposed to having developed a life-long track record of
work and of work ethic and of experience and of knowledge.
MCGHEE: Melissa, I love that you ask what could be possible. Because I
think it`s always good for us to, you know, describe what`s going on, but
then remember that another way could be possible. We could have, a, not
laid off so many government workers.
MCGHEE: These people that were profiled in your film would be great people
to have second careers as teachers, as caregivers. Why couldn`t we have
for the long-term unemployed - I mean this should be part of the social
contract that you are working and trying and seeking a job. There are
still three job seekers for every one opening, right? So, the idea that
people are just sitting on their duffs and not working hard enough, there
just aren`t enough jobs. The government could directly create jobs and
meet the needs that we have in our communities by employing people who are
- have been unemployed for a certain number of time.
GOODMAN: This is work that needs to be done.
GOODMAN: It`s all around us.
MCKENNA: And I want to just pick up on that point that sort of relates to
your last question. I mean during the Recovery Act we saw a program
administered by the emergency fund offering wage subsidies to businesses
and nonprofits to hire specifically long-term unemployed and disadvantaged
workers and there was success in the states during that time, but
unfortunately the program expired at the end of 2010.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you think about the hundred people -- actually, let`s
take a moment. I want to listen to one of the 100 people that you talked
to. Because I do think their voices are really important. And I want to
hear about this notion of having been downsized and how much it also
downsizes expectations. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have downsized my expectations dramatically. I`m
applying for a lot of jobs that only require a high school education, and I
can`t seem to get interviews for those either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don`t want to hire people that are older. It`s
just pretty much that simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s the most important thing you learned from listening
to people talk about their experiences here?
SIPRELLE: Well, those two clips that you just showed, Melissa, are really
important because one of the reasons that older workers are often prevented
from -- or employers are reluctant to hire older workers is they think that
what older workers earned before is the only salary at which they`re
willing to get back to work. And many of the older workers that we
interviewed, they lost their long-term -- they lost their unemployment
insurance months or even years ago, and they just want to get back to work.
So they`re willing to accept a reduction in pay. And even though we can
all say perhaps that`s not the ideal, people are realistic. And they don`t
have any other resources and they`re looking for a way to continue to pay
their bills and support their families. So I think what Stan said there
where he said I`ve downsized my expectations is a very relevant point for
older workers. And it maybe be not something that we wish for them .
SIPRELLE: But people have accepted that. But I think it`s really
important to understand that people don`t -- when you lose your job and
you`ve worked at the same company for 25 or 30 years, the next day you
don`t go out and say I`m going to take a pay cut of 25 percent or 50
percent. No, it`s an adjustment process.
HARRIS-PERRY: It takes a while to get there. Your - the voices in the
film are just critically important. And I thank you for that work. Thanks
also to Peter Goodman, to Sue Siprelle, to Claire McKenna this morning.
Heather McGhee, I`m going to see you again in the next hour.
But up next, $100 yoga pants, our thighs, and how all women know what I
mean when I say the Gap. My letter of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. We`ve got our letter this morning. And it is
to the fact that Lululemon yoga pants cost up to $130 a pair. One pair of
pants. And women love them. The brand has a devoted following that has
turned the company into a financial juggernaut with a market value of $9.9
billion. Lululemon expects to sell well over $1 billion worth of
merchandise this year. And yet the company`s founder says your thunder
thighs are just not welcome in his pants. It`s a classic example of biting
the thighs that feed you, and that`s why my letter today is to Chip Wilson,
the founder of Lululemon.
Dear Chip! It`s me, Melissa. Let`s take a look at how you responded this
week to claims that your company`s new line of pants is lacking in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are complaints of pilling on the fabric.
CHIP WILSON: Yeah, but there have always been pilling. The thing is that
women will wear seat belts that don`t work or they`ll wear a purse that
doesn`t work or quite frankly some women`s bodies just actually don`t work
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry. Excuse me. Did I hear that right? It`s women`s
bodies that don`t work?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don`t work for the pants?
WILSON: No, they don`t work for some women`s bodies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So what types of bodies don`t work in Lululemon pants, Chip?
Can you be more specific?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: Just, you know, really, about the rubbing through their thighs,
how much pressure is there, I mean, over a period of time and how much they
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh. It`s those women whose thighs touch who shouldn`t wear
your pants. Got it. Now, sadly, this kind of thing is in character for
you. You`ve already said that Lululemon won`t make pants bigger than a
size 12. Arguing that the extra fabric would make pants significantly more
expensive to make. And you couldn`t charge bigger women more for bigger
sizes without a public relations disaster. Then there was that time that
you explained that breast cancer is partly caused by women working outside
the home and taking birth-control pills. Yup.
And the fact that you put the catchphrase of Ayn Rand`s "Atlas Shrugged" on
Lululemon`s shopping bags and claim that your vision for the company was
inspired by the book, which was based on Rand`s objectivism, the school of
thought that everyone should just be out for themselves. As a yoga store.
Now, all that could maybe be forgiven if the $100 pants were perfect. But
they`re not. In March, Lululemon had to recall 17 percent of its pants
because they were too sheer and the company`s stock and reputation took a
hit. Even then the company suggested that the pants weren`t the problem.
What women were wearing was the problem. They were wearing the wrong size.
But here`s the thing. Despite what thigh gap "thinspiration" (INAUDIBLE)
would have you believe, most women, nearly all of us have thighs that, you
know, rub against each other, especially when working out, which is what
your clothes are presumably for.
I mean, my thighs touch, Chip. And in order to achieve the thigh gap that
you apparently think Lululemon customers should have, which, by the way,
the obsession that some experts have said is causing eating disorders in
young women, to get that thigh gap, one must not only be thin, but have
especially wide hips. Someone would have to actually, you know, rearrange
her skeleton to achieve it. So instead of blaming our bodies for your
poorly made pants, Lululemon would do well to design clothes to accommodate
our bodies. The thighs wear out too fast? Reinforce the fabric there.
Make your expensive pants withstand all that rubbing. Or maybe. Despite
the cult-like devotion to your products, women will take our big old thighs
to another retailer, one who won`t expect us to pay outrageous prices for
the privilege of being body shamed. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: How much would you spend to save your life? $10,000?
$20,000? Every dollar you have and you`d be willing to borrow? For the
tens of thousands of Americans on a kidney transplant waiting list, this is
not an idle question. Because there is a robust international market for
human kidneys. The trade is illegal, but not inaccessible and many
desperate patients unable to find volunteers turn to doctors willing to
transplant organs purchased on an open market. And while the relatively
wealthy wrestle with what they will spend to save their lives, impoverished
workers in underdeveloped nations face the question of what their vital
organs are worth. Would you sell a kidney if it would lift your family
from poverty or educate your child? The HBO documentary "Tales from the
Organ Trade" follows the case of one Canadian man who turned to the black
market to obtain a kidney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was diagnosed with a kidney disease. After about
nine years my specialist suggested that he`s really not able to help me
much more. So I started to inquire about doing a transplant overseas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he got the news that there might be a
possibility to go out of the country, we just jumped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is the director, writer, and producer of
"Tales from the Organ Trade," filmmaker Ric Esther Bienstock. So, nice to
RIC ESTHER BIENSTOCK, DIRECTOR "TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE": Good to be
here, thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I actually found the film very challenging. When I
first started watching, I thought I`m just going to be outraged at the idea
of people buying organs, but I ended up feeling like, hmm, I`m not sure
about this. Tell me how you felt making the film.
BIENSTOCK: I had the same experience as you had making it. When I first
embarked on making the film, I really thought it was much more a story of
exploitation, desperation on the side of the recipients, but exploitation
on the other the side of the equation. And as I started filming I started
questioning my own ethical assumptions about the issue because I met people
who press would say were coerced into selling their organs, were forced,
were kidnapped, their organs were stolen. But when I finally met them, and
I met dozens of people who would sold their kidneys, some of them actually
benefited from it. And that kind of threw me off. It was kind of
cognitive dissonance. And the intent of the film ultimately was to take
viewers on the same ethically ambiguous journey as I took while filming it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I would say, the film absolutely succeeds in that way
in that, you know, I started asking myself, OK, if we morally applaud, if
our bioethics are, oh, you`re willing to volunteer a kidney, how generous
of you, and yet doctors are paid, insurance companies are paid, you know,
everyone involved in the process is paid, and sometimes really enormous
salaries, but the folks who are giving it up, it`s only allowable if it`s a
volunteer. If you do it in order to reduce your own poverty or that of
your family, somehow it`s now not ethical to contribute.
BIENSTOCK: Well, the term is, and I questioned ethicists and the
prosecutor that I filmed, you keep saying these people are coerced. But
I`ve met them. They don`t appear to be coerced. Well, the notion is
they`re coerced by their own poverty. Well, yes, of course they are
coerced by their own poverty. People are coerced to work in mines and to
work as firefighters. People make choices because they need to earn money.
But I find the notion that because somebody`s impoverished that it`s
patronizing to say that because they`re impoverished they can`t make a
legitimate decision about what to do with their own bodies and their own
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, because it is a black market and not a regulated
one, the fact is that there is exploitation, even if you think that perhaps
there should be financial recompense for giving up an organ, in the current
market in the way it works they`re getting very tiny portions of this
money, sometimes as little as $1,500, $2,000.
BIENSTOCK: It`s not only that they`re getting tiny portions. They`re
always shortchanged. They`re never given what they`re promised. They`re
not necessarily being tested properly. There`s no safety net for them if
something goes wrong. So, what you see in the black market, I mean you`re
absolutely right. The black market is by definition bad. And that`s what
we`re leaving people to, we`re leaving people to a black market. And the
other thing that I found interesting is that I thought - I wanted to meet
the people who decided to go and seek out a black market kidney. These are
generally law-abiding citizens who suddenly are willing to wire upwards of
$100,000 to a broker on the other side of the planet. What kind of
desperation do you have to feel to do that? And that was interesting, too.
I felt empathetic. I understood the people who were doing it. I didn`t
see them as rich, wealthy westerners, harvesting the organs of the poor.
So I went into the film with no judgment and came out with a very different
feeling about it. No answer - the film raises more questions than answers
but it`s certainly - it`s certainly - there are questions that need to be
raised because the waiting lists are very long. People, if they have a
chance to live, they`re going to choose to live, and you can`t fault them
for doing that.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a really lovely point. It does, in fact, raise more
questions than it answers. That`s part of what makes the film complex and
interesting. And you can see it, this film, who is - This is Ric Esther
Bienstock and her documentary, "Tales from the Organ Trade" airs on HBO
tomorrow 12:30 Eastern time. And also, on HBO on demand. Thank you for
Coming up next, we`re going to keep talking about bioethics. This time in
a new way. The growing way in which the Catholic Church is impacting your
health care. And whether you`re catholic or not, you`re going to want to
know about this. So, join more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Here in Nerdland, we have been watching Pope Francis since the smoke
emerged from the Vatican chimney back in March and we love him --
especially when he gets up close and personal with the people, like he did
last week. During the Vatican`s year of faith celebration, a little boy
just would not let the pope be and he did not seem to mind, suffer the
little child throughout the event and even seating the boy on his chair
while he spoke.
Now, on Wednesday, Pope Francis spotted a man in his audience who was
severely disfigured by a rare disease. He went out, laid hands on the man,
kissed him and then prayed with him.
This was the kind of embrace that so many of us, Catholic or not, hope to
see from the world`s religious leaders. But embracing someone is not what
we`re used to seeing from the Catholic Church, at least in terms of policy.
These symbolic acts illuminate Pope Francis`s effort to open up discourse
on doctrine that the church hasn`t been willing to seriously consider
changing, and well, pretty much ever.
Now, this week, the pope opened up discourse in an unprecedented way. He
is polling Catholics, sending surveys to parishes around the globe, asking
questions ranging from what pastoral attention can be give on the people
who live in these types of, that is same-sex, unions. And in case where
non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration
of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with. Also, do
the divorce and remarried feel marginalized or suffer from the
impossibility of receiving the sacraments?
Now, if you`re not Catholic or a lapsed Catholic, you may think what
difference does all this make to me? But it does. It could be a
difference of life or death because the policy of the pope and the church
that he leads has a reach that affects all of us. That`s because the
Catholic Church isn`t just a church. It could very well be your hospital
New information from the ACLU and nonprofit organizations like Merger Watch
indicates that while the number of Americans public and secular nonprofit
hospitals dropped dramatically between 2001 and 2011, the number of
hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Church shot up 16 percent during
According to "Mother Jones", 10 of the 25 largest nonprofit hospital
systems in the country are Catholic and Catholic hospitals care for 1 in 6
patients. Those hospitals get their orders from the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishop, a very conservative group now tussling with
the Obama White House over the Affordable Care Act and contraception.
Those bishops are the men who are setting hospital policy on issues ranging
from providing information about available treatments, to addressing the
tragedies of abnormal pregnancy to dispensing birth control for women and
their reach is growing.
Joining me now is low is Lois Uttley, who is director of the Merger Watch
Project, which focuses on the issue of Catholic hospital takeovers. Author
Brian Stiltner, who`s chairperson of the department of philosophy, theology
and religious studies at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Debra
Stulberg, who is a family physician at the University of Chicago, who
previously worked at non-secular hospital that was taken over by a Catholic
one; and Teresa Younger, an activist from Connecticut who was part of a
successful campaign in her community to prevent a hospital merger.
So, nice to have you all here at the table.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me a little bit about the Merger Watch, about
what we are seeing and why there are more Catholic hospitals now.
LOIS UTTLEY, DIRECTOR, THE MERGERWATCH PROJECT: Merger Watch has noticed
an enormous increase in number of Catholic hospitals across the country.
Part of it is that Catholic hospitals have organized themselves into giant
system like Ascension Health Care, which now runs 93 hospitals in 23 states
across the this country. It has annual revenues of $6 billion. Half of
that comes from our public moneys from Medicare and Medicaid
As these hospital systems get bigger and bigger, they take over non-
Catholic hospitals, and that`s where we`re seeing a real problem. We`re
seeing circumstances like in southeastern Arizona where a woman suffering a
miscarriage went to the emergency room at the local hospital. The doctors
there said we`re really sorry but you can`t -- this pregnancy is not going
to make it. We should end it now to prevent infection.
And then the hospital administrator said, oh, no, wait, that`s against
Catholic rules and they spent this poor women 08 miles away to Tucson for
treatment. That`s not right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Those kinds of stories conflict so fundamentally with the
things that I love best about the Catholic Church, and not just about the
Catholic Church but about Catholic hospitals, which have often sort of
stood in the gap for the poor, stood in the gap for underserved
communities, but then when it comes up against a faith claim, suddenly
medical care can`t be provided. How do we reconcile something like that?
BRIAN STILTNER, AUTHOR: Well, we do have to admit it`s a possible tension
and I think it`s going to be a matter of what message you want to lead with
and what`s going to -- and whether you`re going to kind of give the benefit
of the doubt. I think for many years coming out of the 1960s, in Second
Vatican Council and whether the Catholic Church has always wanted to put
its best foot forward, is that, you know, serving the common good, helping
those most vulnerable, helping the poor.
And that`s -- they would point at the start of the conversation like this
that we do serve so many people through hospitals, social charities and
education. And we should be respectful of society in all these ways and
they are. But then the other side of that is we don`t want to give up our
distinctive, you know, beliefs when we kind of go into the public sphere,
and that`s true and there has to be a balance struck there.
But what I think in recent years the bishops -- under John Paul and
Benedict, have been so concerned about just our religious freedom and the
distinctiveness of our institutions that they`re always leading with that
foot. Like you, I`m kind of hoping Pope Francis might say it`s this other
face of the church that`s got to be our --
HARRIS-PERRY: Our key face.
So, talk to me as a doctor on this question. What does it mean to say to
someone I see that you need this medical care, I am capable of providing
this medical care for you, but there`s an administrator responding to a
faith claim which says I cannot provide this medical care.
DR DEBRA STULBERG, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: That`s exactly right. It`s very
hard. I experienced it when m hospital where I was working got taken over
by a Catholic hospital. And since then I`ve talked to a lot of doctors who
have had a similar experience trying to take the best care of women that
they can, that that their training tells them to, the care that women want
based on their own value.
And as they say, here`s the treatment you need, we`re trying to preserve
your health and then there`s an outside force, often someone with no
medical training, who says sorry, not here, and it may mean as Lois is
describing, a patient has to travel, the delay in treatment can actually
risk further harm to the woman or it may mean she doesn`t get the treatment
at all, in cases doesn`t even know it`s an option for her.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this piece is one of the pieces that is most distressing
to me, that not even information can often be given. So, it`s one thing to
say, for example, we`re not in this facility going to provide abortions on
demand, whatever that means, right, but it`s another thing to say we`re not
going to tell you that birth-control pills exist and we`re not going to
tell you that these sets of options exist.
As you have sort of tried to work with communities to push back, what are
the things that really rile people up when they learn about the Catholic
TERESA YOUNGER, ACTIVIST IN CONNECTICUT: Well, I thin you know, many
people pick hospitals that are in their communities. They don`t even know
that they`re functioning under these administrative restrictions in any
way, shape, or form.
But I think what happens, it`s not about abortion. At the end of the day,
you know, what we saw in Connecticut when we were working on this, it was
about tubal ligations. It was about a woman who had two children and she
and her partner decided that they no longer wanted to have children and
that they were going to use tubal ligation as a means of birth control and
that the hospital was telling them you can`t have that procedure done here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even during a C-section.
YOUNGER: Even during a C-section.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, when you`re already opened.
YOUNGER: Already there. You know? So what it says is that women and
their families cannot make the health decisions that they need to make
that`s best for them and their families and/or it means that a community is
going to be without any kind of access to these health services.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been hearing so much in the pushback against ACA, this
idea of government being between you and your doctor. Literally, I love
this pope, Pope Francis, he`s the best. But I don`t want this guy or
anybody else between me and the medical decisions that I`m making.
STULBERG: And often, it`s the local bishop, which actually can change.
I`ve talked to a number of doctors who were told when they took a job at a
Catholic hospital, your medical judgment and what`s best for the patient
will be the most important thing and we will not get in the way. And then,
a month later, a new bishops appointed and they say all the rules have
changed and suddenly, every case of impending miscarriage like this, you
know, we have to send to the ethics committee.
Again, it`s the delay in treatment and no medical reason for the delay.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. We`re going to have more on this as we come
back. But first, I want to sort of point you -- we have a piece about this
issue on our Web site right now, MHP.com. It is a terrific piece by a
reporter here, Meredith Clark.
When we come back, more into the issue of how communities are pushing back
against these mergers and if it means that they`re going to have to risk
having no hospital at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: A prime example of the growing impact of Catholic hospitals
is unfolding in Washington state. According to a recent "ProPublica"
report, despite Washington state`s recent victory for pot legalization,
marriage equality, and reproductive rights, one area where voters haven`t
had much of a say at all is in the wave of mergers and alliances between
Catholic hospital chains and secular taxpayer supported community
By the end of this year, the ACLU estimates nearly half of Washington
state`s hospital beds could be under Catholic influence or outright
control. The scenario is a common one. Taxpayer support hasn`t been
enough to keep many of these hospitals afloat on their own, so they seek
out alliances to stay open.
And without alliances with a Catholic institution, they would likely be
bound by the ethical and religious directives for Catholic Healthcare
Services. Among those directives, it is not permissible to initiate or
recommend treatment for sexual assault victims that have as their purpose
or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with an
implantation of a fertilized ovum.
In other words, not only do these hospitals deny rate survivors abortion
access, information or counseling. They also deny them the emergency
contraception which is routinely provided to sexual assault survivors so
they won`t have to face the possibility of carrying a pregnancy resulting
Washington`s Democratic governor and attorney general are both fighting
back, directing the state`s Department of Health to update its hospital
merger oversight process and require that all public hospital districts
that offer maternity service also provide birth control and abortions. It
remains to be seen how effective they`ll be.
One of the questions I had is, so, if you end up with delayed access and
negative health consequences as a result, are Catholic hospitals, because
they`re operating under this directive, somehow free from tort and
malpractice suits? Because typically that`s the thing that sort of pushes
providers to behave in one way or another.
UTTLEY: There have been cases of rape victims suing when they were not
given emergency contraception. The problem is in the case where is they
sued, they were denied the information but luckily they didn`t become
pregnant. So, there was no damages that they could prove.
The Catholic hospital`s been getting better on this problem of emergency
contraception for rape victim, but it`s still inconsistent. Really the
biggest problem now, and it`s these Washington cases that you spoke about,
is these emergency services and also tubal ligation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mm-hmm. You know, this point that was made earlier before
the break that it actually matters sort of bishop to bishop, that surprised
me. I guess I was thinking the Catholic Church was a little more
hierarchical in that sense.
If we were to see new policies coming out from the Vatican after Pope
Francis`s great survey, how long would it take for that to impact a
Washington hospital or a Connecticut one?
STITLNER: It seems like it could take a while, although sometimes some
things have happened quite dramatically in a fairly short period of time.
In the 60s, Pope John 23rd setting a tone seem to make a change not just
because you had to get rid of some older stodgier people maybe who were
very conservative, but because deep in the hearts of a lot of those
bishops, they were looking for this breath of fresh air and he authorized
So, the influence would be like I think always with the Vatican. It`s a
political dimension as well, negotiating behind the scene, pressure the
office could put on national conferences but a change would be getting the
key cardinals and leaders in the U.S. to work in the conference of Catholic
bishops to make adjustments in the health care directives that guide
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels that`s important because for community, the choice
between no hospital and a Catholic hospital might often lead to them
saying, OK, we`ll choose the Catholic hospitals because there are so many
kind of services that communities need.
YOUNGER: Absolutely. In the state of Connecticut, I work for the
permanent commission on the status of women which looks at public policy on
all women`s issues. One of the things that government needs to do is to
determine how it`s going to reimburse medical services and if it`s a legal
service do we let one religious stand dictate to an entire community what`s
going to be happening and what`s available to those members of the
I think that`s really an important key link that we need to be aware of,
there may only be one hospital within that community for hundreds of miles.
I mean, this is not just a matter of going to the next hospital that`s the
next town over but it`s the next hospital that might even provide the
service you`re looking for is 50 miles away and there`s no transportation
to get there.
Then, government, we believe, has a role in playing in setting the
standards around what services are available in those communities. So, you
know, hospitals, whether they are Catholic or not, provide a service to the
community. They need to let the community know what services are being
offered and how they`re going to support what services are not being
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things you said, if a procedure is legal, then we
go on to access.
Just wanted to ask you, just finally, Doctor, on this question of access,
it feels to me like one of the possibilities here is that there`s a bigger
coalition that when we talk about abortion and termination services, it
sometimes shrinks the coalition, but if we talk about tubal ligation and
IVF and all these other women`s reproductive health services that are legal
and we grow that coalition. Is that part of how we can make this push?
STULBERG: In fact, we know that the vast majority of American women used
contraception at some point in their life.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even the Catholic ones.
STULBERG: Exactly. And even contraception is prohibited within the
ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care services.
And, you know, if you put a big sign up that says no birth control here, do
you think many patients would come? No. Women would seek services
elsewhere because it is a needed fundamental service for women. And so,
part of it also I think is about being open and willing to be in a dialogue
about what services women need.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. This has been something we`re closely following
and a deep question of access in many different ways. Thanks to Lois
Uttley and to Brian Stiltner, also to Teresa Younger.
Dr. Stulberg is going to stay with us.
But, up next, the other Web site, the other most incredibly important this
thing has to work or the whole thing fails Web site.
But first, I want to bring you up to date on one of the strongest storms to
ever make landfall in recorded history. Super typhoon Haiyan, the
equivalent of a category 5 hurricane with sustained wind up to 190 miles
per hour and gusts up to 235 miles per hour slammed into the Philippines
early yesterday morning. This storm is bigger than Hurricane Katrina,
which hit land at New Orleans with 129-mile-per-hour winds, and superstorm
Sandy, which hit New Jersey with winds of 94 miles per hour.
For some perspective, as this mock-up shows, if Super Typhoon Haiyan were
off the eastern coast of the United States, it would stretch from Florida
to New York. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate from the path of
the storm, but at least 12 million live in the area hardest hit.
Rescuers are having a difficult time reaching some of those regions, but
the Red Cross estimates the death toll in the Philippines alone will reach
at least 1,200 people. Typhoon Haiyan has weakened slightly this morning
but still sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. It`s now heading towards
the coast of Vietnam.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though it`s a small
percentage of folk who is may be disadvantaged, it means a lot to them and
it`s scary to them, and I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this
situation based on assurances they got from me. We`ve got to work hard to
make sure that they know we hear them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama apologizing Thursday to people
who`d lost health insurance plans that they liked. But as we know, that is
not the only or isn`t the biggest problem with Obamacare. For all the
complaining over Healthcare.gov, that it` too slow, that it doesn`t always
work, people have had a hard time creating accounts, et cetera. For all
that, there is another affordable care act website that`s doing even worse.
Welcome to the (INAUDIBLE), the Spanish language version of the federal
government`s health insurance exchange, where Spanish speakers should be
able to compare and enroll in health plans and apply for subsidies for
So, the Spanish site has been put on the back burner. You can`t even try
to use it. The site directs users to call a 1-800-number and to enroll in
insurance that way.
The Obama administration acknowledged back in September that it would delay
getting the Spanish site up until late October and more recently officials
have said it will be functional by the end of November.
But Latino advocacy groups like the National Council of La Rasa aren`t
buying it and a spokesman for La Ras told "BuzzFeed" that failing to meet
deadlines is deepening mistrust of the law in Latino communities, something
the group is working hard to combat.
She said, "We can`t afford to lose this option for the Latino community.
The Latino community has been fundamentally underserved by health care as
it exists today.
At the heart of the ACA is work to address disparities between rich and
poor, among white and black and brown Americans, and the law could make
progress in closing those gaps. But it could do so much more if certain
governors would play ball -- which brings me to Texas.
President Obama went to Dallas this week to thank the navigators for trying
to help people sign up for the law and to chide the state`s leaders for
refusing to take $79 billion in federal dollars to expand their Medicaid
program and cover 1 million more Texans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Folks who are complaining about how the Web site`s not working and,
you know, why isn`t Obama fixing this, and all these people are uninsured,
and yet they`re leaving a million people right now without health insurance
that they could immediately fix. There`s not a lot of logic to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Governor Rick Perry was quick to shoot back, saying that
President Obama is, quote, "Coming to Texas in a desperate attempt to
salvage his ill-conceived and unpopular program from a Titanic fate by
preaching expansion of the same Medicaid system he himself admits is
Perry, no relationship, went on to say that Texas already spends a quarter
of its budget on Medicaid and claimed that to expand the program would be
to bankrupt the state.
More on the persistent disparities in our health care system and Rick
Perry`s math, up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: When President Obama went to Texas this week, he made an
important point, that Texas maybe more than any other state needs
Obamacare. That`s because Texas has some of the worst health care
disparities in the country. About a quarter of the population is
That`s 6.1 million people, more than the population of most other states.
Sixteen percent of white Texans are uninsured, 23 percent of black Texans
lack insurance, and 38 percent of Hispanic Texans remain without insurance,
which means of all the people without insurance in Texas, 60 percent of
them are Latino.
The Texas Medicaid program, while one of the biggest in the country by
sheer numbers, is also one of most stringent. If you`re parent, you don`t
qualify for Medicaid unless you make close to nothing, just less than
$5,000 for a single working parent with two kids. And if you don`t have
kids and aren`t disabled, you can`t get Medicaid at all.
The ACA`s Medicaid expansion would change that. Any adult making up to 138
percent of the poverty line, about $15,900 a year for a single adult, could
get insured. It would mean insurance for 1 million more people in Texas.
That`s one-fifth of the estimated 5 million people who would get insurance
in every state refusing to expand Medicaid changed their minds.
But Texas Governor Rick Perry is one of the many who has refused, and now
about 5 million people will fall into a gap they can`t qualify for Medicaid
and they are too poor for federal insurance subsidies.
Joining me now to talk about the stubborn state`s effect on health
disparities is Dr. Debra Stulberg from the University of Chicago; Avik Roy,
former health care adviser to the Obama campaign; Dr. Otis Brawley, who is
chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, and Heather McGhee.
Thanks so much for being here.
So, let me ask this. We know that race is not biology. Race is social and
So, what does that tell us about racial health disparities? Where do they
DR. OTIS BRAWLEY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, ACS: Most racial, ethnic
disparities actually come because people get less than good care, less than
good preventative care. I`m very worried about diets for young kids, how
they grow up, lack of exercise, very worried about not getting
vaccinations. That`s actually much of the root of hypertension and other
things later in life is because kids get less than good preventative
Later in life, adults need to get good preventive services as well,
treatment of hypertension. We can prevent a lot of heart attacks, a lot of
kidney failure, a lot of strokes if we simply did these preventive things.
We worry in this country too much about treating people once they`re sick
and not about preventing the disease.
HARRIS-PERRY: This question of preventative care is part of what President
Obama went to Massachusetts and said when he was saying, this Obamacare is
like Romneycare. One part is it`s going to provide access to preventative
care services for a broader group of people and that will bring down health
care costs not only for those individual households but also for state, for
Why, then, are Republican governors opting out of something that would, in
fact, bring down costs?
AVIK ROY, THE MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: One of the things you brought up, you
brought up the disparity between, in terms of coverage among different
ethnic groups. There`s also a disparity in the quality of care separate
from coverage, and that`s one of the big challenges with the Medicaid
So, for example, in New York state, for every dollar a private insurance
pays a doctor, Medicaid pays 30 cents. That means a lot of people don`t
get those preventative screenings. When they get diagnosed for cancer on
Medicaid, you get diagnosed at a more advanced stage for cancer because it
wasn`t diagnosed earlier because you didn`t have access to primary care.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, that`s not wrong that Medicaid reimburses at
something like half to 60 percent to what Medicare reimburses at but that`s
not a reason not to expand Medicaid, right?
HEATHER MCGHEE, DEMOS: Right. It would seem you`re suggesting the federal
government should put more money into Medicaid so it can be more generous,
but I`m assuming that`s not what you would say.
ROY: I think we should spend more money on health care for the poor. I
don`t know if the Medicaid is necessarily the best mechanism for that
because it`s so structurally dysfunctional.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk about disparities in general. When we think about the
question of these disparities should we be more worried about the floor,
whether or not people have a decent life span, quality of life, a decent
quality of life that`s better than some previous time, or should we care
about disparities, that even if the floor is up, if there`s a big gap, that
should still matter to us?
STULBERG: We should care about both. Improving everybody`s health is a
great thing but inequality also makes us sicker. When people exist in the
world and are experiencing racism, are experiencing chronic stress, that
leads to worse health outcomes. That leads to perhaps not even knowing
that you can go seek care for a problem, how to access care.
Having access to that point of entry, that primary care provider makes all
the difference in the world. And I think closing that gap is key for that.
MCGHEE: The point is --
MCGHEE: I was going to say, that is where I think the most interesting
science is going. There`s a beautiful documentary called "Unnatural
Causes" which looks at this issue. It`s not just about, can you afford to
get to a doctor or do u have health insurance, but it`s also about the
metabolic processes that happen when we are under stress and particularly
socioeconomic stress and the stress of status stress because we live in a
society where we internalize the feeling of being inferior, where poverty
creates levels of stress that literally hurt people`s hearts, right? You
have heart disease that comes from a hardening of the arteries that is
linked to stress, not just from diet or other kind of external factors.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s where I wanted to connect these two pieces,
doctor. So, you talk about sort of getting the right kinds of foods and
the right sorts of exercise, which we know there`s racial stratification on
that because of residential segregation. But the other work of Sherman
Jackson and others around John Henryism and the idea that the stresses,
particularly the African-American men experience as a result of inequality
actually deteriorate the quality of their cardiovascular health.
BRAWLEY: Yes. I actually agree with you that there`s definite links to
cardiovascular health. When we start talking about things like cancer, I`m
actually more concerned about more environmental things -- diet, lack of
exercise, obesity problems. When I talk about diet, I`m very concerned
about high caloric intake as opposed to other things.
I`ll point out that poor kids and middle class kids, and this is not a race
thing. This is a socioeconomic thing, poor kids have diets much higher in
carbohydrates. Middle-class kids have diets much higher in protein.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because carbohydrates are way cheaper.
BRAWLEY: Right. Some of the best data from this comes from Scotland,
which is basically an all-white country, which has taken tremendous pain to
actually categorize people by socioeconomic status. And in Scotland they
wonder why is it that the poor white women in their 50s and 60s have triple
negative breast cancer?
In the United States, we wonder, what is it about being black that
increases risk of triple negative breast cancer?
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me. We`ve got more on this.
Up next, more on the health impact of being uninsured. It can literally be
a matter of life and death.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been established that black and Hispanic Americans are
much more likely to lack insurance than white Americans, and being
uninsured has an enormous impact on health.
Uninsured adults are more likely to die from a stroke or heart attack.
They`re more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of cancer, more
likely to die if they go into a hospital with a serious condition.
And what`s more -- in communities with a high proportion of uninsured, even
the insured adults in that community have difficulty getting care.
So, I want to walk through the couple of disparities a little bit and kind
of see the extent to which we think having more insurance and more access
or something else would make a difference. So, let`s talk about asthma,
particularly childhood asthma. What do we know about childhood asthma as a
disparity and what difference it might make to have insurance access?
STULBERG: A child should never die of asthma, should never have to be in
the ICU. Asthma is a treatable condition. When you`re diagnosed, there
are clear guidelines that your primary care doctor should be able to offer
But treatment can be expensive. Following all of the regiments of your
medication can be important. You need a supportive school environment.
You need really a whole system to care for that child with asthma and
that`s what`s difficult.
ROY: There was a study published, I think it was in "New England Journal",
it may have been in the "Journal of Pediatrics" who said people who said
their children were on Medicaid, doctors, 55 percent of the time if they
said that their kid had an acute asthma attack, 55 percent of the time the
doc would say I don`t have an appointment for you, whereas if the kid had
private insurance, under 10 percent of the doctors would turn down those
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what is the solution to that sort of -- I mean, if
Medicaid is the thing a that at this point we know would massively expand
who is covering it, saying Medicaid is broken, what is the key solution to
ROY: I support giving them private insurance through these exchanges.
What the Arkansas model is doing is one way, it`s not perfect what Arkansas
did, but actually giving people the opportunity to have private coverage,
private coverage that reimburses doctors at a more favorable level, that
would give them access to primary care --
HARRIS-PERRY: Doesn`t that keep health care high though?
ROY: Not necessarily, though. There are a lot of ways that -- again, the
structural dysfunction the way Medicaid spends the money. If you structure
the insurance product in a different way, you can actually address a lot of
these problems and still pay doctors a lot of money. The problem is
Medicaid doesn`t allow you to do that, so what states do is instead of
tweaking the insurance product, they pay doctors in the hospital less
because that`s the only leverage financially they have.
DEMOS: So, would you have -- the working poor have very generous tax
subsidies because I can`t see how you can be opposed to the minimum wage on
one hand, not want to have any regulations around what employers do with
their employees and still say that someone make $14,000 a year should shop
for private health insurance which costs that much.
ROY: Very different points, right, because when you raise the minimum
wage, you make it harder for people to get jobs.
ROY: If we subsidize their health care, it`s independent of who hires
them, right? So, if I give them person a large tax cuts to shop for
coverage on his own, that has no impact on whether or not --
DEMOS: Why not increase Medicaid?
ROY: Well, you have to make radical surgery to the program statutorily to
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask about improving Medicaid on another health
disparity. That`s breast cancer. Breast cancer is kind of a tricky one
because the incidence is about the same for black and white women, but
mortality, like the dying from it, is much higher for black women. And
that does seem to have everything to do with the ability to get in to see
that doctor relatively early in the system.
BRAWLEY: Well, first, I point out that the mortality for breast cancer for
blacks and whites was the same in the set1970s. This disparity only
started in 1981 and has gotten worse every year since 1981. Disparities in
treatment, disparities in early detection, are a huge reason for that.
You`re absolutely correct.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, in other words as the capacity to beat breast cancer
improved, the disparity increased because it was about access to those new
BRAWLEY: We`ve actually got data to show about 20 percent of women who
call themselves white get less than optimal care for breast cancer. It`s
about 40 percent to 50 percent of people who call themselves black who get
less than optimal care for breast cancer.
HARRIS-PERRY: The very last one I want to ask about is mental health care
access because we did see Kathleen Sebelius talking about sort of making
that even -- what do we know about that disparity?
STULBERG: Well, first of all, we were talking earlier about chronic stress
of being poor, of experiencing racism, and if you develop depression, if
you develop an anxiety condition, there are good treatments out there. And
yet mental health care is so under available, so underfunded, and so what
do people do? They turn to alcohol, drugs, self-treatment, and those make
the problem worse.
And -- I mean, that, if I could do one thing it would be improving
treatment for mental health care and making it widely accessible.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, sometimes, I feel like, you know, I`ve set off and I`ve
lived in the Seventh Ward in New Orleans, and the feeling that living in
poor communities sometimes feels like everyone has post-traumatic stress
and you just -- you know that -- not that you want to medicalize whole
communities but you have the sense that there is care that is need.
Thank you to Dr. Otis Brawley, and to Heather McGhee, and to Dr. Debra
Stulberg, and to Avik Roy.
Now I do want to take a moment to acknowledge something amazing that`s
happened in an operating room in San Francisco this week. This is how we
all felt when we were about to get medical treatment and care.
Let`s just take a look.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is Dr. Debra Cohen, who is a breast cancer patient.
She hosted a dance party just before undergoing a double mastectomy. She
and her surgical team got their groove on to Beyonce`s "Get Me Body."
Debra says she hopes others will dance and send her a picture or video for
her to watch while she`s recovering.
So far her dance video has gotten more than 5 million hits on YouTube.
Among Debra`s fans, Beyonce, who posted the story on her Facebook page with
the comment, "Debra, you are awesome."
The connection between breast cancer and care and mental health and Beyonce
only on Nerdland.
Up next, the military interpreter who risked his life to save U.S. soldiers
and the veteran who`s returning the favor. A true foot soldier is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Monday is Veterans Day, the one day our nation sets aside
each year to recognize and thank all the men and women who have risked
their lives serving in the U.S. military. But sometimes it`s the veterans
who want to show gratitude. And their thanks are not reserved exclusively
for fellow Americans.
Our foot soldier this week is Matt Zeller. He`s a former embedded combat
advisor stationed in Afghanistan who spent two years trying to rescue Janis
Shinwari, the Afghan interpreter who made himself a target for the Taliban
while keeping Matt and other U.S. soldiers safe.
Because of his work, Janis was no longer safe in Afghanistan but his visa
was stalled in the U.S. embassy. Knowing his friend might be killed if he
did not escape, Matt petitioned the U.S. embassy and members of Congress to
issue Janis` visa immediately.
Finally, on Tuesday, October 29th, his efforts proved successful. Matt was
reunited with the man he calls brother. That night when Janis touched down
at D.C.`s national airport with his family.
Joining me now is U.S. Army veteran Matt Zeller.
So nice to have you here.
MATT ZELLER, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when did you begin to get concerned with Janis` life?
ZELLER: The day he saved mine. Janis actually ended up killing two
Taliban fighters in a firefight, the worst firefight of my life. I was
pinned down in a ditch and these guys are sneaking up by me and he jumped
me and saw them and shot them and killed them. Soon after he was placed on
the Taliban kill list for his actions. I was concerned from that point
forward that his life was in grave jeopardy.
As the years went on, it only became more and more in grave jeopardy as his
family received threats a and will he to relocate to a new base in Kabul.
The Taliban followed him there.
He`s my brother. I had to do something to save him.
HARRIS-PERRY: You use that language, he`s my brother, I had to do
something to save him. Obviously he saved your life.
Tell us -- for those of us who are civilians who talk about war and about
the theaters of war from spaces like this, tell us what we need to know
about those relationships between U.S. soldiers and men on the ground like
Janis that we often don`t know.
ZELLER: I don`t think adequate words exist to describe it. It`s as close
as you might be with your children or your family the way we are to each
other. It`s a bond that is unspeakable and unbreakable. It literally is
willing to give up your life for that other person to save them, to take
care of them.
I had always expected I would have that type of bond with fellow U.S.
soldiers. I never thought I would have it with an Afghan man who ended up
becoming my best friend. I considered him to be literally my brother.
He`s a family member to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I actually would like the Nerdland audience to meet
Janis. I want to bring from Washington, D.C., a week and a half since
touching down at Washington`s National Airport, former Afghan interpreter,
So nice to have you here.
JANIS SHINWARI, AFGHAN INTERPRETER: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the story Matt`s telling us, obviously, you were in a
position of risking your life. Why?
SHINWARI: Because the one who is serving in our country all the American
troops, they are fighting for Afghans, for Afghan people to bring peace for
our people and they`re fighting for us, for all Afghan people. This is our
responsibility if they`re in some sort of threat or they`re or somebody
want to hurt them or kill them, this is our responsibility to save their
lives and don`t let anybody to hurt our guests because they are our guests
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s fairly unusual for someone in your position as
translator to have been armed. Is that correct?
SHINWARI: Yes, that`s true.
HARRIS-PERRY: So tell me then sort of how that came to be.
SHINWARI: Because, well, we were back in Ghazni, all the Americans trusted
us and trained us with different type of weapons because we could support
each other during the firefight against the Taliban. For that reason, we
were allowed to carry guns in the base.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, tell me, how important is the work that matt did in
terms of making sure that you got safely out of Afghanistan?
SHINWARI: Actually, he saved our lives. He saved my life, my family`s
life, my wife, my two kids` life. If Matt didn`t help us, we would be
stuck in Afghanistan. We might be killed by Taliban.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matt, do you feel at all as though the debt has been repaid?
ZELLER: A little bit, yes. I mean, I didn`t end up killing somebody and
he literally in the moment did that. But I`m just happy that our children
are going to get to grow up together and play together. For me, the
greatest thing in the worlds has been watching him go to his first grocery
store, riding his first escalator, walking around Washington, D.C. and
seeing the White House.
And you know, he said to me the other day, I said, brother, does any of
this feel real? He said, no, I feel like it`s a dream -- it`s a dream
where I`m safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: You all had a nice moment just before we went to air. Is
there anything you`d like to say to Janis, Matt?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. There`s a great deal of love and brotherhood
here. I`m thrilled by -- to be able to see it.
Thank you so much to both Matt Zeller and Janis Shinwari.
The program on the question of Veterans Day continues. Tomorrow at noon on
MSNBC, we will present, "Taking the Hill." This is a presentation of MSNBC
by former congressman and Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy. He`s hosting an
hour long discussion of issues affecting the veterans community. That is
tomorrow at noon Eastern Time.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern where we are
going to look at issues in the NFL, despite my failure "Up Against the
Clock" this morning on that question. We`ve got a lot to say about the NFL
and bullying and what it means to be a man in football.
Plus, the role that will race played in the elections this week.
And now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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