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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Read the transcript to the Sunday show

March 23, 2014

Guests: Ron Christie, Tara Dowdell, John Rowley, Tim Franzen, Karen
Friedman, Arun Gupta, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, Connie Razza, Robert Francis,
Misty Copeland

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC ANCHOR: But first, the latest on Malaysia
airlines flight 370.

Good morning. I`m Jonathan Capehart, in for Melissa Harris-Perry.

Let`s get right to new developments this morning in the search for
Malaysian airlines flight 370. Malaysian authorities say France has
provided new satellite images of objects that could be from the flight
that`s been missing for more than two weeks now.

We`re still awaiting the release of that imagery, but we do know the
objects are near the area in the Indian Ocean where two previous satellite
images showed debris. Now, according to the Associated Press, a Malaysian
official involved in the search mission said the images were captured
Friday and shows the objects are about 575 miles north of the area where
the objects were located.

Just yesterday, officials released an image from a Chinese satellite,
showing a large object measuring approximately 72 feet x 42 feet, floating
in a remote area of the Indian Ocean off Australia. That object is about
74 miles southwest of the possible debris captured in another satellite
image, revealed on Thursday, by Australian authorities.

An international contingent of planes and ships have been scouring the area
for four days now, and so far, there`s been no definitive sign of the plane
or the 239 people on board. But the prime minister of Australia is hopeful
that answers will be found soon.


definite. But, obviously, we have now had a number of very credible leads
and there is increasing hope, no more than hope, no more than hope, that we
might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated


CAPEHART: Since the plane vanished more than two weeks ago, the Pentagon
has spent at least $2.5 million helping with the search operation. And the
U.S. is considering a request from the Malaysian government for underwater
listening devices.

For the latest on the search right now, NBC News correspondent, Tom
Costello, who covers aviation, joins us now from Washington.

Tom, give us a sense of where this latest debris was spotted.

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: OK, let`s go to this map then and
let me get you over there. The bottom line for this is that we`ve got now
pieces that were in this area here. This was a couple of days ago, of
course. We`ve got pieces that were in this area, that were spotted on
Australian satellites. Another piece in this general area spotted by the
Chinese satellites. And now we`re told that the French, in this general
area, that that item spotted by the French in that general area.

All of this, kind of in this area, 1,500 miles or so from Perth, Australia.
And it is, as you know, a four-hour flight to get all the way down here to
this search zone. You`ve then got two hours to look.

And consider the size of what they`re looking for. It`s about the size of
-- well, it`s 79 feet, if you will. Let`s go back to this other image
here. This is the original image here that was on satellite imagery that
we had a couple of days ago. Hang on, we`ve got a quick gremlin in the
system. There we go, OK.

This was the original image from the Australians last week, 79 feet is what
we`re told on this one. And as you can tell, it`s really difficult to make
out exactly what this is. Now, the piece of wreckage that was discovered
and identified by the Chinese, that was about -- we don`t have an image of
it here right now, but that`s about 73 feet.

In fact, let`s take, there you go, right there. It is very difficult to
discern between this piece that was spotted by the Australians and the
piece that was spotted by the Chinese. And now we have not yet seen what
the French have provided, and we don`t have the dimensions on that.

But how does that relate to a 777? The wingspan for a 777 is about 200
feet across. So it is possible that we`re looking at a piece of a wing,
that we`re looking at a piece of the fuselage. The tail, by the way, is 60
feet or so. That said, there is so much junk floating out there in the
ocean, it`s entirely possible it`s something else.

And I think is that you`ve got to ask yourself, with all the time that`s
passed now, two weeks since this plane would have gone down, would you
still have big pieces of the fuselage floating or would they have sunk at
this point? I think that`s a real, real problematic issue. Back to you.

CAPEHART: Great, NBC News correspondent, Tom Costello in Washington,

Now let`s turn to NBC`s Ian Williams in Perth, Australia.

Ian, what comes next in the search for the missing plane and how much of a
factor will weather be?


Well, just a short while ago, the Australian marine safety authority, which
is coordinating this search, came out with a statement at the end of the
day, and it said nothing of significance has been found during today`s
search. It also said, to address your question, that they`ve been hampered
by quite heavy fog early today, although that had cleared as the day went
on. But the crucial part of that statement, delivered just a few minutes
ago, is that nothing of significance was spotted today.

They do now have those three satellite images to work with. It`s our
understanding that the French image was passed to the Malaysians, who have,
in turn, passed it to the Australians and that now is part of the
information pack, which they`re using to decide which areas they will
search next.

Now, today, there were eight airplanes out there, including one from the
U.S. military, combing over an area the size of about 30,000 square miles.
Tomorrow, Monday, those aircraft will be joined by additional airplanes
from Japan and China. The Chinese presence being stepped up here.

Already, there are a flotilla of ships heading to that area. Although
today, the one ship of significance was an Australian military vessel,
which is capable of picking up debris. But as of yet, they haven`t spotted
any to collect.

And we should add, as well, while the prime minister was hopeful today, his
deputy earlier had warned, as tom indeed did, that there`s an awful lot of
trash floating around down there, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: NBC`s Ian Williams in Perth, thank you. We`ll check in with you
later in the program.

Now joining me on set is MSNBC and NBC News aviation specialist, John Cox.

So John, given the size and location of the debris in the latest satellite
images, do you believe that they could be related to the plane`s

that they`re so large limits the parts of the airplane it could come from,
to the fuselage or the wings. And the fuselage components typically don`t
float, particularly for two weeks. The wing, depending on the damage it
may have sustained on impact could float, maybe not.

So I`m a little skeptical because of the size of the debris itself, that
we`ve located. I think we`re going to find much smaller debris, like seat
back cushions and things like that. That`s going to be the telltale.

CAPEHART: And from your perspective, those smaller pieces of debris,
potentially, that`s a sign that it -- well, I don`t mean to say, it`s a
good sign that it could be from the plane. You are -- you`re taking
hopefulness in that we could be looking at the plane, if the debris is
smaller. Not the 79-foot sections.

COX: I think what we`ll find is a fairly large number of something that is
ready identifiable from the airplane. Overhead bags, for example, as the
overhead compartment split open. There`s going to be stuff that floats out
from there. And the seatback cushions, they float virtually indefinitely.
If there`s one, there`s likely to be 10, 20, and that`s a starting point.
And that`s the essential point, we then have a hard, fixed starting point.
Then you can take the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, you can take that
data and back drive a likely point of impact and that`s where the
underwater search can commence.

CAPEHART: Now, big part of the puzzle is the black box, excuse me, as
we`ve been talking about over these last weeks, a third of the battery life
of the black box is gone. How will the search be hampered if the time, I
guess it`s 30 days, comes and goes?

COX: Well, the design life of the battery is 30 days and we`re about
halfway through that. It certainly would help if we had underwater devices
and they picked up that pinging, or it`s actually a clicking sound. If
they pick it up, wonderful. As with the air France 447 accident, it is, I
think, more likely that we -- that those batteries will end up being
depleted and we`ll have to find the wreckage and then slowly and carefully
locate those recorders and then recover them.

CAPEHART: John Cox, thank you. We`ll check back with you later in the

But up next, the Supreme Court, religious freedom, and birth control.
They`re all about to meet and the result could be historic.


CAPEHART: It`s been nearly two years since the Supreme Court issued its
landmark decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care
Act. The court`s June 2012 ruling upholding the ACA`s individual mandate,
a key provision of the law, was a major victory in the history of legal
challenges that have plagued the law since it was first passed in 2010.

But this week, the Affordable Care Act is facing the yet another high-
stakes constitutional hurdle before the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the
justices will hear 90 minutes of arguments in two cases, one of which,
Sebelius versus Hobby Lobby, it is the court`s most closely watched case of
the year. At issue is the question of whether or not employers can use
religious objections to deny employees the contraceptive cover required by
the ACA. The plaintiff, Hobby Lobby is a multi-billion dollar chain of
craft stores owned by a devout Christian family that sued on the grounds
that the contraceptive man date burdens the company`s beliefs.

What`s important to know here is that the company, not the family, would be
the ones providing the coverage that includes contraception. So in
essence, Hobby Lobby is asking the court to extend to it the same religious
protections guaranteed to churches or individuals. Which is why decision
in their favor could have wide-ranging consequences beyond gutting the
ACA`s contraceptive coverage requirement.

But it`s asking that the Supreme Court -- because it`s asking the Supreme
Court -- asking that the Supreme Court make a finding that no court has
ever made. If the court agrees with Hobby Lobby`s argument, it would be
holding for the first time ever that corporations are entitled to the first
amendment right of the free exercise of religion. That decision could
potentially open the floodgates for corporations to challenge federal
protections on everything, from LBGT discrimination to childhood
immunization requirements, all based on a religious objection.

And what`s more? A ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would also mean the
court agrees with Hobby Lobby`s completely inaccurate beliefs about
contraception. Hobby Lobby is specifically objecting to covering the
emergency contraceptive pills, plan b and Ella. And intrauterine devices,
commonly known as IUDs.

There are oppositions to including them in health coverage for their female
employees is based on their belief that they are used to end pregnancy,
except that belief is just plain wrong. Because all three reproductive
health options opposed by Hobby Lobby or contraceptives, not agents to
induce abortion. It`s basic Sex Ed 101. Contraceptives prevent
fertilization from even happening. So there`s no Pregnancy to begin with.

And, up until 2012, when Hobby Lobby first decided to file the lawsuit, two
of the three contraceptive methods were already covered under the company`s
health plan.

In addition to its claim of first amendment religious protections, the
company is also arguing for protection under a 20-year-old federal statute
called the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA.

The statute says the government must have a compelling interest to burden a
person`s free exercise of religion. And Hobby Lobby`s claim in this case
is that, yes, when it comes to religious freedoms, at least, corporations
are people too, my friend.

Joining me now is Democratic strategist and media consultant, John Rowley,
Democratic strategist, Tara Dowdell, national reporter for Irin
Carmon, who is a report up on Web site right now, and "Daily
News" column -- "daily news" -- I`m sorry. "Daily Beast" columnist and
former special assistant to president George W. Bush, Ron Christie.

Everybody, welcome.

Irin, I`m going to start about you, because you wrote about RFRA which is
at the heart of this case. And is the court agrees with Hobby Lobby, this
law could weaken the ACA. But the act was originally supported and passed
by Democrats and opposed by conservatives.

that in the early `90s, when RFRA was first proposed, and it was proposed
in response to a case, a Supreme Court decision, that was written by
Justice Antonin Scalia, of all people, that involves peyote, I think. So
at the moment, as everybody was talking about religious freedom, they were
talking about how to prevent the government from forcing people to violate
their beliefs on an individual basis.

So somebody not getting unemployment benefits, because they smoked peyote
as part of a religious exercise, that was the case that really galvanized
everybody. The idea was protecting minorities who were unpopular, whose
religion was marginalized from public life.

Nobody was talking about corporations. Nobody was talking about infringing
on the rights of third parties to have the same access to health care as
other people.

CAPEHART: And even, I think, Congressman Nabler, who was part of -- from
New York, who was part of RFRA from the beginning said, this was not part
of the plan, ever, when we were coming up with this.

But, Ron, what about the decision could mean for corporations. I mean, the
business community is not rooting for Hobby Lobby to win, because a
decision holding that a corporation and its owners are the same could
expose CEOs and their corporations and the members of the boards to

RON CHRISTIE, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: I think that`s right. And I think
what you found in this particular case, coming out of Citizens United,
where in this particular case, in Citizens United, a corporation was deemed
as being an individual under the first amendment.

Hobby Lobby is trying to make the same argument here that we are a company
of conscience. We believe that we should be afforded the same protections.
I actually agree with what they`re trying to do and I`ll tell you why.

The FDA allows 20 contraceptives to be permitted around the ACA. Hobby
Lobby is objecting to four. And your lead into this story is exactly
right. These aren`t contraceptives, these are mechanisms that will prevent
people from becoming pregnant. I think that`s a very important distinction
to make. So Hobby Lobby isn`t saying that we shouldn`t provide
contraception to our employees, we`re specifically objecting to these four
procedures that are in place.

CARMON: Right. But I think the entire point of the Affordable Care Act,
including this as preventative care, is that women have traditionally paid
more out of pocket for health care than for men.

We have a problem with unintended pregnancy in this country. Many people
object to the abortion right that is as a result of that unintended
pregnancy rate. And the idea is if we make it easier for people to get
very effective forms of contraception, of which the IUD is one of them,
we`re going to treat women`s health care just like any other health care.
And that is why is a problem to single out just before.

CHRISTIE: One quick last point. I agree with what you`re saying, but this
is the whole root of where I think a lot of people have a constitutional
objection with the ACA. They say for the first time, the government is
compelling individuals, compelling a corporation to provide --

CARMON: It`s a private insurance company, to have minimum coverage

CHRISTIE: Insurance is different. But I`ll toss it back to you, Jonathan.


CAPEHART: You guys can keep going.

I want to take a look at a recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. And
it asks, a good idea or bad idea. Now, while 35 percent of Americans think
Obamacare is good idea, 53 percent think employers should not be exempt
from covering birth control.

So, we may not be in love with Obamacare, but we are pretty clear that
women should get birth control as part of their health coverage. How much
influence do you think the public will have on the court`s decision?

JOHN ROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think we should talk about the
Pandora`s box this decision is going to open up --

CAPEHART: I`m going to get to that next.

ROWLEY: I mean, in terms of companies being liable, like you referenced.
I mean, if I was a small business, which I am, and everybody else around
the country, I would with against this. Because there`s now a shield from
lawsuits. Your company is liable, you`re not liable, in lawsuits. Not to
mention, a company or an employer imposing a political agenda on the

We have laws on the books that you can`t force your employees to vote a
certain way. Laws on the books that you can`t force employees to
contribute to campaigns. And so, you know, you`re the boss at work, but
not the boss of people`s lives. And I think there`s a huge legal and
political Pandora`s box we could open with this decision.

CAPEHART: And I want to come to that next, and Tara, we`ll come to you
next. We need to take a quick break.

But before that, a fun fact trivia question. What happened four years ago
today that changed, well, pretty much everything?


CAPEHART: Today marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the
Affordable Care Act by President Obama. But take a look behind me at the
clock ticking down to the end of the law`s open enrollment period.

With that deadline swiftly drawing near, the ACA has a lot more numbers to
worry about than its increasing age. Like this one, for instance. March
31st. That`s the last day Americans have to sign up for health insurance
or face a fine of as much as one percent of their taxable income.

Then there`s this number, five million. That`s how many Americans have
already signed up for health insurance under one of the ACA`s health
exchanges. Which falls far short of this number, seven million. That`s
the original target the White House had hoped to reach before the glitchy launch pumped the la brakes on the new law.

Then, if you do a little simple arithmetic, you get this number, two
million. To reach the White House`s goal number of signups, two million
will have just a week to make a mad 11th hour dash for health coverage.

Now, it`s likely if you`re among that number, you`re among this number, the
48 percent of Americans, who according to a recent NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll, say they`re more likely to vote for a Democrat who supports
fixing and keeping the health care law, which is why Democrats in the U.S.
Senate are paying close attention to this number, six.

Republicans need only pick up six seats to snatch away the Democratic
majority in the Senate.

Tara, I am coming to you first. But Democrats up for reelection this year,
and in particular red-state Dems, there`s just though running away from
Obamacare. So why not run to it? Why not run on it? Embrace it.

TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Exactly. And I`ve been saying that,
I`ve been beating this drum for years, actually.

Here`s the issue. There`s another poll that came out, with the questions
asked a little slightly different. And it said, fixing it, keeping the law
and fixing it, and keeping the law flat-out as it is. Two out of three
Americans say they would keep the law as it is, or keep it just with some
modifications. That`s a stunning and unprecedented number.

And here`s the problem for Dems. If they choose to run against this law,
it doesn`t matter. The Republicans are going to paint them as having been
supporters of this law, as having been cheerleaders of this law. So, it
doesn`t matter what they say. The Republicans are going to attack them on
it anyway. So, it is pointless to run against it.

And also this other strategy that some are trying to use, by saying,
there`s so many errors and I`m going to fix it. That`s not a winning
strategy because you don`t start by defeating yourself. You don`t start
with a defeatist approach, saying, this is bad and I`m going to fix it.
You start from a place of strength. If you look at how the individual
elements of the law polls, they all poll very well. Talk about those.

CAPEHART: Well, let me read a statement from the president because he
talks about some in a statement released today, some of those elements that
are very popular. The president`s statement says, more Americans with
insurance have gained new benefits and protections. The 100 million
Americans who have gained the right to free preventative care like
mammograms and contraception, the eight million seniors who have saved
thousands of dollars on the precipitation drugs, and the untold number of
families who won`t be driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs.

Three million young Americans have been able to stay on their family plans,
and over the past five and a half months alone, more than five million
Americans have signed up to buy private health insurance plans on, plans that can no longer discriminate against pre-existing

So we know that even though Obamacare doesn`t poll well, people really like
the things that the president mentioned about the law.

CHRISTIE: No, they don`t.

CARMON: What do you mean, they don`t? What don`t they like?

CHRISTIE: Take one particular thing. The president talks about "free"
preventative care. There`s nothing free. Their tax dollar is paying for
that. It`s not free. Number two, the president says five million people
have signed up for that. The president has no documentation for the amount
of people who have actually enrolled in the program who are paying. That
is projected to be millions less than that.

So the number that you`re talking about at the end of March 31st, the total
enrollment people, that number will be far less than five million. It is
going to be probably somewhere in the three million range.

And finally, I would add, this White House has never come clean with the
American people about everything that the law was supposed to do. Here we
are, four years later. It didn`t drive down costs, it didn`t actually --

CARMON: Driving down cost is not an overnight process.


CAPEHART: Come on, Ron.

CARMON: It takes a long time for preventative care to actually, you know,
stem emergency room visits --

CHRISTIE: I agree with that.

CARMON: For chronic conditions.

CHRISTIE: But we were told it was going to bend the cost curve, we were
going to cover more people, and of course it was going to cost less. None
of those three things --

CAPEHART: Respond, a minute left.

DOWDELL: I want to jump in here. So number one, the Medicaid expansion,
that five million number doesn`t include the people who have signed up
through the Medicaid expansion, through the states who have agreed to it.
That`s number one. So there are more people.

Number two, people who are under the age of 26, who can stay on their
parent`s plan. Young people, who would otherwise be uninsured, those folks
who have signed up through that.

Also, the small business tax credits. Tax credits for nonprofit agencies
to give insurance to their employees. Then there are those numbers. So
that`s not true, to say that that number is low. It`s actually probably
going to be higher.


CAPEHART: Ron, sorry. We don`t have any time left.

So, up next, the fight, and it`s a fight, over Medicaid expansion. Is it
sparking a progressive revival in the deep south?

But first, here`s the latest on the search for Malaysia airlines flight

Authorities say a French satellite has captured images of debris floating
near the search area in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia. We
are still awaiting the release of those images. This is the third set of
satellite images announced in recent days. It comes just one day after
officials revealed an image of a large floating object captured by a
Chinese satellite.

That object was spotted about 74 miles southwest of the spot where a few
days ago, another satellite captured similar images of floating debris.
Ships and planes from more than two dozen countries, including the U.S.,
are involved in the search. But, so far, there`s no definitive sign of the
plane or the 239 people who vanished more than two weeks ago.

We`ll have more on this ongoing mystery in our next hour, including the
latest on the passengers` families.


CAPEHART: We`ve been talking about the political debate around the
Affordable Care Act, but this week, the loudest voices on the ACA in the
Georgia state Capital building weren`t politicians.

On Tuesday, that honor went to these folks, a diverse group of activists
who were protesting the state`s refusal to participate in the ACA`s
Medicaid expansion. In all, 39 people were arrested during the protest,
including Reverend Raphael Warknock, the pastor of Atlanta`s Ebenezer
Baptist church, a job once held by Martin Luther King Jr. and Sr.

This is what he had to say as he was being arrested.


really a small price to pay, given the fact that there are a lot of people
who are handcuffed to poverty, and unable to get basic health care in the
richest country in the world.


CAPEHART: The protesters held a sit-in in the capital, just outside the
office of Georgia governor, Nathan Deal whose signature would make into law
two bills passed Tuesday into the Georgia legislature that would make the
expansion of Medicare in the state almost impossible.

Ron, help me understand this. The Georgia legislature trying to end any
possibility of Medicaid expansion. You also have the governor trying to
overturn a law passed by Ronald Reagan, president Reagan, that says
emergency rooms cannot turn away people in need of emergency Medical

So why not just help struggling families by giving them coverage, rather
than denying them care.

CHRISTIE: I think when you look at the Affordable Care Act, one of the
things in the decision against Sebelius versus NFIB that you found in
there, the Supreme Court held by a 7-2 margin, that compelling states to
provide expansion of Medicaid was unconstitutional. They said the only way
that the ACA would survive is if the states, that the individuals in these
states had the ability to decide whether or not they were going to expand

So I understand what the pastor and what the folks in the majority who were
upset about the fact that the state has elected not to expand Medicaid.
But if they were compelled to do so, the Affordable Care Act would have
fallen on its face, because it would no longer have been valid. So if the
folks in Georgia don`t want to expand Medicaid, they have no legal right to
do so.

CARMON: Just because it`s legally right doesn`t mean it`s morally right.

ROWLEY: And they`re shooting themselves in the foot. This isn`t just
about providing more health care to more people. There`s a huge economic
impact to this. Hospitals all across the country and all across Georgia,
they are failing. Hospitals have one of the biggest economic impacts on a
community, particularly a small community, and all the businesses that
depend on those hospitals. And so, there`s a huge economic, fiscal and
then a compassionate argument, which I think the moral Mondays group is
focused on.

CAPEHART: There are a couple of headlines about hospital closings in
Georgia. This is what think progress, which is regressive, had to say.
Fourth hospital shuts down as the state refuse Medicaid expansion.
Meanwhile, the "Daily Caller" which is just conservative who went with this
headline. Fourth Georgia hospital closes due to Obamacare payment cuts.

So can we all agree that hospitals are being closed in Georgia.


CAPEHART: OK, good. But I want to know from the table, who`s right about
the reason.

CARMON: Well --

CHRISTIE: Go ahead.

CARMON: Objectively speaking, I mean, the entire design of the Affordable
Care Act, you can`t just take out one piece of it, and just hope the entire
thing stays afloat. I mean, it becomes a sort of sinking ship when you
take out one of the core parts of it.

So the payments to hospitals were supposed to go down, once more people
were covered on Medicaid. One piece was supposed to move to the other.
Once you have the politics of spite, which, yes, the Supreme Court did say
that it was constitutional, but, again, you have hundreds of thousands of
people in Georgia, millions of people across the country, being left out of
the access to health care, that Congress agreed that they should have. You
know, that is the point at which, you know, it really becomes -- both
leaving certain people out of the political process, low-income people,
people who have fallen to this coverage gap, in states where the bar for
Medicaid is already very, very high.

And you also have a way to kind of say, look, Obamacare isn`t working.
Hospitals are closing. It is sheer politics.

CAPEHART: John and Tara?

DOWDELL: Exactly. That`s exactly right. So what`s happening is, the
Republicans are trying to sabotage the law. They`re trying to take out
pieces of the law that will cause the law to be unsuccessful.

Now, the losers in that is not President Obama, ultimately. The loser will
be Americans. Because a big part of this law that does not get talked
about enough is the whole point of this, is to actually improve American`s
health. Actually improve the delivery of health care. And in doing so, if
we are healthier, costs, by definition, will go down.

If people don`t have access to care, they will be less healthy. It affects
education, it affects so many elements of our economy. And that`s a part
of the law we will have to have a much longer debate on, that we can talk
about how it actually makes people`s health better.

CAPEHART: And it`s going to take a very long time for those outcomes to be
seen by everyone. It`s going to take a whole lot longer than four years.

As the ACA open enrollment deadline nears, we want to hear from you. MSNBC
is answering your questions about the Affordable Care Act and sharing
testimonies from the community at You can read
stories from others across the country and share your own. And on social
media, tell us how the ACA will affect you and your family, using

Up next, do you know what passed the Georgia legislature Thursday night?
Simply put, you will not believe what passed the Georgia legislature
Thursday night.


CAPEHART: Blocking Medicaid expansion isn`t the only thing Georgia
lawmakers have been working on. The state Senate was in session until
midnight on Thursday, when the legislative session officially ended. And
some of the most anticipated and controversial bills were left until the
late hours of the night. A little after 8:00 p.m., this happened.


STATE SEN. DAVID SHAFER (R), GEORGIA: Earlier today, we passed legislation
that provides a mechanism for testing a welfare recipients for drug


CAPEHART: Which is one way of saying that newly passed House bill 772
requires drug testing of welfare recipients and takes away food stamps, you
know, public assistance that allows some of our fellow citizens to eat,
from individuals who do not pass those drug tests.

The bill says that a drug test is required, quote, "at any time a
reasonable suspicion exists, including, but not limited to an applicant or
recipient`s demeanor." And what exactly constitutes suspicious demeanor?
Well, it leaves that up to interpretation.

The legislature also passed House bill 714, which makes some seasonal
school workers like bus drivers, ineligible for unemployment when school is
out. And they agreed to a final version of House bill 60, which removed
restrictions on carrying guns in bars, and allows places of worship to
decide on allowing guns inside their premises.

If these bills receive Governor Nathan Deal`s signature, they will be the
law of the land in Georgia. And it is these types of laws, in addition to
the state`s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion, that is fueling the moral
Mondays movement now in Georgia.

Joining our panel now via remote from Atlanta is one of the leaders of that
moral Monday movement, Tim Franzen.

Tim, I understand you want to respond to something you heard before the
commercial break.

be on the show, I overheard Ron Christie say if Georgians want to refuse
Medicaid expansion, we have the right to do so.

And, you know, I just want to say that the overwhelming majority of
Georgians want Medicaid expansion. That`s not a poll that`s been published
that says otherwise. We have 65,000 uninsured Georgians, whose only form
of health care is going to the emergency center. And instead of dealing
with the problems that are in the ACA, our governor is not only saying that
he`s going to refuse Medicaid expansion, but that now he wants to little
how much care people can get at emergency centers, while we`re the fifth
most uninsured state, 20 percent of our, you know, residents are uninsured.

We are approaching third world health care conditions here. It is
literally a nightmare. People are dying every day as a result of the
governor`s decision not to expand Medicaid. And Georgians want it.

So, I just want to make it clear that most of us want Medicaid expansion.
If it was an election, it would be landslide on the side of Medicaid
expansion. We need it. People are dying every day. It`s not a right or a
left issue. It`s a right or wrong issue. It`s immoral to refuse Medicaid

CAPEHART: So, Tim, Moral Mondays, Georgia, has been following these bills
since November. And you were there on the last night of the Senate
legislative session. What was your reaction to the bills that ended up

FRANZEN: Well, you know, there is an exciting energy. Things are changing
in the south. The demographics are changing. It`s inevitable that these
red states are going to turn blue. So right now, it feels like the folks
that are out of touch, people that have ruled for decades, are in their
last gasp. And they know it. And they`re afraid. And instead of getting
with the times, they are trying to, in their last gasp, while they still
have power, turn the clock back 50 years in Georgia. And that`s really
what happened Thursday night, is just the most regressive bills in my
lifetime passed.

CAPEHART: So, John, let me ask you this. Is this going to provide model
legislation for other states, particularly in the south, what`s happening
in Georgia?

ROWLEY: Well, a lot of these Koch brothers-inspired bills have migrated
around. And I mean, it`s interesting, when you talk about Moral Mondays, I
mean, I think we need to ship some what would Jesus do bracelets down to
the Georgia legislature. Because when you talk about some of these drug
testing bills, talk about these other things that are more driven by hate,
it seems like, than policy. There was an old saying they used to say in
Atlanta, because it was growing so fast, we`re a city too busy to hate.
And it seems like this legislature is too busy, too focused on hate right

CAPEHART: You know, Irin, John just talked about the drug testing issue.
It makes me wonder, should we be concerned about the language in the drug
testing bill about reasonable suspicion about someone`s demeanor as a
pretense for drug testing, for benefits?

CARMON: I think you`re absolutely right to flag that, because we all know
that that is a code word that often is a pretext for racist singling out of
certain people. We`ve seen in other states that have done this kind of
drug testing of welfare recipients that it is -- that they don`t find
anything unusual, they don`t find a rate that is higher than the general
population. It is just a way to stigmatize and surveil people who are on
public assistance.

CAPEHART: Tim, we have less than a minute left and I want to come back to
you to end this conversation. Are there other bills from this session,
that Moral Mondays Georgia has been focused on and is concerned about?

FRANZEN: Virtually every bill that you named. I mean, with 714, I mean,
the same bus drivers that protected children that were stuck on buses
during our ice storm are now having their unemployment stripped away from
them. We believe that that is morally wrong. If we`re going to drug test
anybody and have their job on the line, it should be the legislatures that
are passing these laws. Not folks that are struggling to survive every

So virtually, every bill that you named, it shows the crisis of economic
priority that we`re facing here in Georgia.

CAPEHART: And on that note, Tim Franzen, coming to us from Atlanta, thank
you so much.

Everyone, hold on for me for a moment. After the break, you know about the
protests in Georgia. You know about the protests in North Carolina. But
is there now a renewed progressive movement all throughout the south?
That`s next.


CAPEHART: If you`re a regular viewer of this program, then, you`re
probably familiar with scenes like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have five minutes or you will be arrested.


CAPEHART: The moral Monday movement in North Carolina started back in
April of 2013 as a protest against the Republican-led legislature for
denying Medicaid coverage and cutting employment benefits. Seventeen
people were arrested after this act of civil disobedience.

North Carolina NACC president Reverend William Barber has been leading the
moral Monday movement since it is inception and his cause has only grown
since it began. In February, Moral Mondays held the demonstration on a
Saturday with an estimated attendance of more than 80,000 people.

And the movement has now expanded beyond the borders of North Carolina.
There have been protests in South Carolina since January. And we can also
add neighboring Georgia to the list.

This past week in Georgia, we saw, for the first time, what has become a
staple of Moral Monday protests. Demonstrators being arrested, 39 in
total. This movement is clearly not bound to one single state. It has
become regional, leading us to ask the question, is there a new progressive
movement sweeping the south?

John, I`m going to start with you. Because the south is undergoing large
demographic changes. And I`m going to put this on the screen. For
example, 10 of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic growth from 2000 to
2010 were located in the south. We have the map there on the screen.

And as we know that Latino voters in 2012 voted overwhelmingly for
President Obama and for re-election. And so, it leads to the question,
will these demographic trends impact the possibility, possibility, of
political change in the south, in that region.

ROWLEY: Those demographic trends and Republicans now being in power, and a
lot of those state legislatures and governors and people getting a taste of
what it means. A lot of them got in because people voted against
something, as opposed to, they voted for their agenda.

But demographically, I think sometimes progressives in the Democratic Party
wants to write off the south, sometimes it`s tough to win races down there.
When you look at it demographically, the south will always come back. But
you know, 20 to 30 percent of the population of every state and every
district is minority. And that`s growing in terms of African-Americans,
there`s migration back to the south in terms of Hispanics, more and more
people, and that`s where a lot of the demographic shift is. The south will
come back, absolutely.

CAPEHART: Tara, will the south, well, rise again?

DOWDELL: I knew you were going to say that. I think the south will rise
again for progressives. But here`s what we need to do. I`m actually kind
of happy that -- and this is going to be unpopular for me to say -- that
some of these laws are being advanced. Because people had given up. We
weren`t seeing the pushback from Democrats, from progressives, the way that
we see it from conservatives.

Conservatives have been talking about the Affordable Care Act for four
years. Like, they have not stopped fighting the Affordable Care Act. It`s
been litigated, it`s been legislated, and they`re still fighting it.

Democrats have a tendency to once things don`t work out, to kind of pack
our bags and go home. And that is not a winning strategy. We have to be
consistent and we have to be aggressive. And if these movements continue
to be assistant and aggressive and people understand what`s at stake, which
I think these laws are making them understand, then we will see the south
come back.

CARMON: And I think, also, Democrats -- excuse me. Democrats have a
tendency to sit out midterm elections --

DOWDELL: And local.

CARMON: And local elections. If we had a time machine to go back to the
middle of 2010 and say to Democrats, your entire agenda, not just
nationally, but also at the state level, is going to be unwound by what`s
going to happen in state legislators. If you ignore them, seeing people
out at state legislatures getting involved at the local level.

I think is enormously inspiring. And they`re reclaiming the moral mantel
from Republicans, who have used this word all the time. They`re saying,
it`s moral to give people access to health care. I think that`s

CAPEHART: Tim Franzen is still in Atlanta.

And Tim, I`m going to give you, actually, the last question, since we`re
talking about whether the south will rise again, for progressives. Will
Georgia turn blue anytime soon?

FRANZEN: Well, these terrible laws have brought people together that have
been in their organizational silos, from those silos, into the streets,
working together in a way that we haven`t before. Our survival depends on
it. And so, yes, I mean, people are excited. There`s a new idea and the
changing demographics make it inevitable that we`re going to take back the

It`s not going to happen in two weeks. It`s going to take us years to
reshape the political landscape. And that`s why we say, this is not a
moment, this is a movement. And it`s going to take a lot of work, but
we`re committed, we`re in it for the long haul, we`re looking at the long
view. And, you know, this Moral Monday is just a beginning in Georgia.

And so we put a spotlight in Georgia, our next step is to organize around
the state. We`ve got elections in November. Our legislative session,
again, in January, and we`re going to be ready.

CAPEHART: Tim, I`ve got to cut you off there, because we have to go.
Thank you so much for coming to us from Atlanta. Also, thank you, John
Rowley, Tara Dowdell, Irin Carmon, and Ron Christie.

Coming up next, retirement at risk. No matter what your age, this is the
information you need to know.

Plus, the one and only misty Copeland. More Nerdland at the top of the


CAPEHART: Welcome back. I`m Jonathan Capehart, in for Melissa Harris-

We begin this hour with the latest on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which
took off on March 8th from Kuala Lumpur, and has been missing ever since.

Earlier today, the Malaysian transport industry indicated that they had
received, according to a statement, new images by a French satellite,
images which we are waiting to be released by the Australian Maritime
Safety Authority, showing potential objects in the southern search zone.

According to "The Associated Press", one Malaysian official claims that the
images were photographed on Friday. Now, we should emphasize that just
what these images show at this point remains unclear.

Also, there has been no confirmation, as of yet, whether or not the
possible debris spotted by a Chinese satellite last week off the coast of
Australia was a part of the missing Boeing 777. The object, measuring
approximately 72 feet by 42 feet was found along one of two possible routes
that investigators theorized that Flight 370 could have taken.

Another lead, one which investigators still feel is their strongest, came
from Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, when he revealed Thursday that
two other similarly-sized objects, were found floating in the ocean about
1,400 miles southwest of the city of Perth.

On Saturday, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air
Force, two chartered civil aircraft, and two merchant ships supported the
search area in an area that encompassed more than 22,000 miles. They were
searching along with aircraft from several other countries, but the search
has concluded for today.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Papua New Guinea said earlier that
these search efforts would continue as long as they needed to know what


TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We owe it to the people on board
the plane, we owe it to their grieving families, we owe it to the
governments of the countries concerned to do everything we can, to discover
as much as we can about the fate of MH370.


CAPEHART: The grieving families Abbott mentioned have been waiting 16 days
for answers. That`s 16 days to worry, hope, agonize, and grow
progressively more angry, as we saw yesterday in Beijing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here waiting for you, 14 days. We want to know
what happened. What the reality is. We`re not here only to listen to you.
We want to ask you.


CAPEHART: Some families are now receiving insurance payments, due to
international law known as the Montreal Convention. Malaysia Airlines is
required to make some advanced payment to families of the passengers even
though the fate of the plane and those on board still remains unknown.

At least one family member, the mother of American passenger Philip Wood,
made clear she is still looking for definitive answers.


anything until we get it from an official. So, we`re hopeful. We remain
hopeful. Of course, you know, this is another new twist I want to know.
One way or the other, I want to know.


CAPEHART: Joining me now from Washington, with the latest in the search of
Flight 370 is NBC News correspondent, Tom Costello.

COSTELLO: Well, imagine the heartbreak for those family members. You
know, you`ve got a child on this plane, that`s been missing for 14, 16
days, a spouse, a parent. It is, as you might imagine, gut-wrenching.

Let`s take a minute. Let`s do a deeper dive, if we can, of the Chinese
satellite image. We are still waiting on the French satellite image that
we are told they picked up in the last couple of days, showing something,
some sort of debris. We don`t have any better resolution than that. If
you`re looking at that at home, thinking, what is that? Well, that`s our
question too.

Seventy-three feet is what we`re told is how long this particular piece is.
It`s very difficult to make out, to figure out what could be 73 feet long.
Well, let me go to another screen here. I want to show you the 777.

This is Malaysian Airlines -- pardon my back -- this is the Malaysian
Airlines 777. If you were to turn this plane upside-down, just like that,
so we`re belly up.

Now, let`s take a look at what would be the wingspan. The wingspan on this
plane is about 200 feet. So that should give you a sense, OK, is it
possible that that 73-foot piece is coming from the wingspan? Yes, that`s

Could it come from the fuselage here? The fuselage of a 777 is about, more
or less, about 205 feet. So, could it be something inside either the
fuselage or the wingspan that would be 73?

The trouble is, look at the shape of that size. It`s really hard to make
something out that would be a 73-foot chunk.

And here`s another problem. If it`s from the fuselage, you know, this is
essentially a tube. And once a tube fills with water, it sinks.

The other problem, the wing themselves are loaded with fuel, right? So, if
the fuel leaks out, if there`s nothing left in those cavities, then you
have a vacuum, you have an empty space, and in theory, they would fill with
water, and they would sink.

So this is why, now, more than two weeks after this plane went missing, if
it went down in the south Indian Ocean, it`s hard to figure out what piece
could still be intact that is 73 feet. It doesn`t mean it isn`t possible,
but it really kind of adds to the mystery.

Jonathan, back to you.

CAPEHART: NBC`s Tom Costello in Washington, thank you.

Now, I want to turn to NBC News correspondent Ian Williams in Perth,

Ian, what are you hearing from the ground there?

WILLIAMS: Hi, Jonathan.

Well, all the aircraft that were involved in today`s search have now
returned to base here in Perth. And in a brief statement, the Australian
Maritime Authority that`s coordinating this said they found nothing of

They also said they were, again, hampered by bad weather, thick fog earlier
today, although that did clear later in the day. Interestingly, each
aircraft, and there were eight that went out there today, was carrying a
team of spotters. They are relaying increasingly on eyeballs, looking for
these pieces of debris. Although many of these aircraft are packed with
some of the most sophisticated equipment you can imagine, they are now
flying low, and looking for these pieces of debris, as the most effective
way of following up on those satellite images.

And, of course, when they`re doing that, that`s when the weather really
comes into play. Now, tomorrow, Monday, the search will be stepped up.
And they will have at their disposal those three sets of satellite images.
The French now having provided theirs to the Malaysians, who have passed
them down here to the Australians.

Tomorrow, those eight aircraft, which include an American military
aircraft, will be supplemented by two from China and another two from
Japan. So, a pretty big fleet out there. Also, ships now getting into the
area, looking for this debris.

But while we have that very positive comment, really, from the Australian
prime minister today, saying there was increasing hope, don`t forget that
his deputy, just a few hours earlier, had said, had cautioned that in this
part of the Indian Ocean, there is an awful lot of trash, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: NBC News correspondent Ian Williams in Perth, Australia --

Back with me on set is MSNBC and NBC News aviation analyst, John Cox.

So, John, this morning, we`re learning of another satellite sighting of
debris. Does this suggest that crews are at least searching in the right

JOHN COX, MSNBC/NBC NEWS AVIATION ANALYST: Well, we don`t know what that
debris is. We certainly have the evidence that has been turned up by the
satellites the that they need to check, they need to run down, but whether
this is the right area or not, we`ll have to wait until we either see the
debris or conclude that it`s, that it sank.

CAPEHART: Now, there`s a massive search, multi-national search effort
underway by land, by sea, by air. What`s the most critical strategy or
piece of equipment being employed right now?

COX: Well, the fact that they are increasing the number of people on the
airplane to visually look for the airplane and some of the airplane have
enhanced vision or an optical systems, those are going to be very, very
important. So, the visual aspects, was not only looking for these large
pieces, but more importantly, really the smaller pieces, that`s what I
think is going to show us the debris field and that will end up letting us
narrow the search for the main body of the wreckage.

CAPEHART: And if, indeed, these satellite photos show debris from the
plane, the debris has been in the water for a very long -- for a long time.
Will it still provide clues to investigators?

COX: Absolutely, absolutely. We`ve seen in other maritime accidents where
the debris has been in the water for some period of time, it still provides
information. Did the airplane come apart in flight? Did it hit the water,
impact? You can tell that by the way the metal is actually broken.

Those kinds of physical evidence are things that the investigators are
going to look for. Once we find the main body of the wreckage, is there
soot? Where are the recorders? We recover those. All of this.

So, yes, the investigators are getting data.

CAPEHART: John Cox, thank you.

When we come back, we are shifting gears to a very important issue.
Whether you are a boomer, Gen-X or millennial, the retirement you may be
dreaming of in the near future or distant future, could be a fantasy. No
matter what your age now, you need to know about what might be coming.


CAPEHART: When it comes to the issue of pensions for public sector
workers, the latest headlines illustrate there is a big problem when it
comes to funding this vital retirement resource. And that is a problem
because of the number of retired people relying on this defined monthly
benefit that was supposed to be guaranteed for the remainder of their

For Americans who are 65 and older, defined benefit pensions make up nearly
18 percent of their current income, while Social Security makes up almost
37 percent. What is important to note that as many as 30 percent of all
state and local workers are not covered by the Social Security system,
because back when South Carolina was created this 1935 by FDR, all state
and local government employees across the country were prohibited from
participating in the program.

Now, that`s because there were constitutional concerns about the federal
government levying a tax on state governments. Amendments to the Social
Security Act in the 1950s changed this, but states are not required to

So, for those public sector workers who don`t get Social Security, their
pensions become crucial to their retirement survival. Without Social
Security, they are missing a key part of the retirement three-legged stool
model, which consists of, a pension, Social Security, and supplemental

And to be honest, retirees may be teetering on only one of those legs,
since the median total savings of older households amounts to a little more
than $45,000.

But that last leg on the stool isn`t looking so good either. Since 2011,
more than 40 states have enacted some form of pension changes, but their
pension liability between 2011 and 2012 increased by 24 percent. And the
shortfalls to the state pension systems keep rising. Some states owe an
amount equal to or above their annual revenue.

While states are scrambling to plug the poorly funded holes they`ve dug for
themselves, one city`s pension system is about to implode. Detroit`s
proposed bankruptcy plan would cut the benefit checks of general city
workers by 34 percent and 10 percent for police and firefighters. The
city`s two pension funds are urging federal judges to rush an appeal on the
city`s bankruptcy eligibility before Detroit can get approval for its
restructuring plan. The urgency was noted by one of the lawyers in the
case, who wrote, the proposed plan would thrust thousands of the more than
20,000 current Detroit retirees into a state of poverty from which they may
never recover.

And the decision in Detroit could have far-reaching consequences. Yes,
retirees could be thrust into poverty because of slashes to their benefits,
but this could also set a precedent for how cash-strapped cities deal with
their pension problems.

At the table: Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, cofounder and personal finance expert
at and financial expert at AARP, Connie Razza,
director of strategic research at the Center for Popular Democracy, Arun
Gupta, a contributor at "The Guardian," "In These Times", and "The
Progressive." Arun is also the founder of "The Occupied Wall Street
Journal," and Karen Friedman, executive vice president and policy director
at the Pension Rights Center.

Thank you all for being here.

Karen, I am coming to you first.

How bad is the problem that states are facing when it comes to pensions?
And more importantly, how is it created?

this way. Right now, there is a campaign of misinformation that`s being
promoted, often by some ideologues that really want to undercut pension
plans in this country, that are anti-union, and will turn the whole country
into a system of 401(k) plans.

The fact is that retirees have been largely scapegoated. Everybody is
saying, oh, you know, pension plans are bankrupting cities, they`re
bankrupting states. But the fact of the matter is, it`s untrue.

The fact of the matter is, that most state and city pension plans are well-
funded, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
There`s a few bad apples. You have Illinois, you have Kentucky, you have a
few others.

But in those situations, it`s not because of the size of the retiree`s
benefits. It`s not because of any of that. It`s because state legislators
have acted badly and they haven`t funded the plan.

But I want to say something about Detroit. In Detroit, that situation is
outrageous and it`s heartbreaking for retirees.

You have -- the city workers gave their lifetimes to the city. You`re
talking about the street sweepers. You`re talking about the clerks.
You`re talking about firefighters and police officers.

They gave up wages, often contributed themselves into the pension plan,
with the promise of getting a pension plan, a pension benefit that would be
a lifetime guaranteed plan. In fact, these were backed by Michigan state
constitution, that they could never be reduced.

So what ended up happening? The city and the emergency manager of Detroit
went in and filed bankruptcy, mostly to get out of those pension
obligations. As you said before, it`s outrageous right now that these
pensioners are facing these huge and dramatic cuts.

And at the same time, I want to just point out to you, that the
bondholders, many of whom are the same financial institutions that caused
the problems in Detroit, they help precipitate the economic crisis in this
country, they are now coming in and saying, you know what, the retirees,
uh-uh. We need full restitution. We`re going to take that money out of
the pension plans.

And that`s outrageous. It`s immoral.

CAPEHART: Arun, let`s talk where these contributions have come from. More
than 60 percent is from investment returns. And you say the system should
be restructured. How?

restructured by making guaranteed monthly income for all elderly people.
We should double the Social Security payments to the elderly. That would
put us on the level of France and Germany. As you pointed out, about 37
percent of retirees` income comes from Social Security. In European
countries, it`s closer to 70 percent.

And to those who say, it can`t be done, it can be done very easily, if we
lift the payroll tax gap, if we get rid of the employer tax breaks for
pensions, we won`t need that any longer. And then if we get rid of the
home interest mortgage deduction, 75 percent of which goes to households
who earn over $100,000 or more, we could fully fund a doubling of Social
Security. And that would have an incredible economic benefit to all of

CAPEHART: Connie, if we look at median pension numbers, the sums are not
big. So if there are slashes to these types of numbers, how can people,
especially seniors, be expected to survive?

question, right? Are we going to take seriously our commitment to the
folks who made possible our quality of life? I mean, the attack on
mentions is really an attack on public services as a whole. It`s an
investment. A long-term investment, that we`ve committed to, and we`ve
committed to in contracts.

Look, the excesses, the bad decisions, the recklessness of politicians who
didn`t fully fund their contributions to the pension funds that are
struggling right now are just being exacerbated by the recklessness of Wall
Street, who`s serving -- who`s trying to convince folks that they need to
take on crazy, exotic, and risky instruments in order to move to more, to
try and make up for those losses.


Lynnette, I want to go back to the three-legged stool. Savings is a big
and necessary part of it. But people just aren`t -- they`re not saving.
Why aren`t people saving more? And how is that contributing to the
retirement income deficit?

mentioned, that, in theory, one of the great ways that you can secure a
great future for yourself financially is to have multiple streams of income
when you`re in your golden years. Of course, for many pensioners, that is
being taken away at, you know, these levels we`re talking about today.

The fact is, so many Americans are living hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-
paycheck, right now, that they feel that they can`t save for the future.
Especially when you talk about the 50-plus crowd, the data is actually
quite alarming. So many people haven`t saved, not only enough for
retirement, but many Americans, half of all Americans, have more in debt
than they have in savings.

Another survey recently found that one out of three Americans has less than
$1,000 in savings. So there is no safety net there for a lot of people.
If they don`t have the pensions to help backstop them, to help provide a
source of income when they`re no longer able to work, and obviously, as you
said, a lot of these pensioners in public municipalities, et cetera, also
don`t have the contributions or the checks from Social Security, their only
source of income will be their own savings.

And it just hasn`t materialized for so many people. They`re dealing with
higher costs of health care, higher food, higher housing expenses, higher
insurance premiums. The list goes on and on. And I fear that we are not
only going to put a generation of Americans into poverty, but the next
generation as well.

CAPEHART: Right, right. OK, we have a lot more to get to. Hang on, with
me, for a moment, folks.

When we come back, I`m going to tell you how some of the biggest CEOs in
American are doing with their pensions.



CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hey, do you think in 20 years, we`re still going
to have pensions, even in government?

GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: Yes, I do, I think they have to be properly
funded at all times. And since I became governor five years ago, every
year we put the proper amount into the pension funds. That didn`t occur
until I came here. I inherited a very large problem of $100 billion

But we do hard things. Sometimes they`re not popular, but they`re
necessary for everyday people to have a good economy.


CAPEHART: That was Democratic Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois, speaking
with MSNBC`s Chuck Todd on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" on Friday.

Illinois has the lowest credit rating in the U.S. and was recently
downgraded by Moody`s for failing to fulfill its pension obligations. Its
pension liability is $187 billion. That is 318 percent of the state`s

But while we focus on how states will fulfill their obligations to
retirees, there is another important piece to this pension pie. According
to a survey conducted by Nerd Wallet, a financial information Web site, CEO
pensions are worth at least 239 times more than the average employee`s
401(k) at 10 of the biggest U.S. companies.

While the median yearly income of U.S. retirees with pensions stands at
just more than $31,000.

Connie, I`ve got to come to you first. If we take a look at the gaps
between CEO pensions and the average 401(k), it`s staggering. How does
income inequality factor into this conversation, especially for those not
making a whole lot of money?

RAZZA: Right. This really is an attack on the very basis of America. We
are in a case where, we`ve seen income and wealthy inequality widen. The
attack on pensions is really widening it even more quickly.

If you look at the communities that are in the public sector, working,
those are African-Americans and other minority communities that are being
attacked, really, with the attack on pensions. When we make the promise to
have pensions, a lot of times people are taking a wage cut in order to have
the promise of security going into the future.

KHALFANI-COX: And frankly, a lot of these people who probably could do
other things or go into more profitable careers in the corporate world, et
cetera, because of their own inclinations towards community service,
whether they`re teachers, whether they`re cops, whether they`re
firefighters, et cetera, they are taking a pay cut in a lot of ways, based
on other career options that might be available to them.



CAPEHART: Go ahead, go ahead.

FRIEDMAN: No, I`m just going to add to what these two wonderful women are
saying. But right now, we are facing in this country a $6.6 trillion
retirement income deficit. That`s the gap between what people have saved
as of today and what they would have needed to save to reach some basic
sufficient level of income in retirement.

And if -- that`s cause, because as Lynnette said before, there`s a 50
percent coverage rate in this country, 401(k) plans are failing people
miserably. Companies are cutting back pensions, except for the corporate
executives, as you said.

So, if we continue to see states and cities try to get out of their pension
obligations, I just want to make this one point, America has been the land
of promise. It`s going to become the land of broken promises if we keep
this going on. So we have got to stop that.

RAZZA: And one piece on this is, look, we bailed out the banks, coming out
of an economic disaster that they created.

And then, we defended, I mean, certain of us, defended the rights of their
executives and employees to get bonuses, because of what the sanctity of
the contract.

And then, three years later, we reduced state and local aid from the
federal government, because of the economic condition that Wall Street
created, and we told public employees, look, the paper your contract is
written on, not worth a thing. The contract itself is not worth a thing.
We`re willing to break those promises and send you into poverty.

CAPEHART: That`s actually a very good point.

And, Arun, I want to -- let`s bring it back to corporate America. What`s
happened with the pension system, who bears the brunt of the blame? Is it
corporate America or is it the politicians?

GUPTA: Well, I think it`s both. But the politicians are bought off by
corporate America. This crisis has Wall Street`s fingerprints all over it.
Now, there`s also another three-legged stool when it comes to retirement,
right? It`s the pensions like Social Security and defined benefits. It`s
also investment income.

And then it`s home equity. And the Wall Street-caused crisis, which is the
biggest criminal fraud in U.S. history, and which none of these executives
have had to pay a price for, cost $8 trillion in lost home equity.

So, you knock out one leg of that stool. And then we`ve had multiple stock
market bubbles and crisis. Let`s not forget the Internet bubble which
caused Americans trillion dollars in savings, and was full of all sorts of
fraud. You know, Enron was one of the most explicit. Then, we find one of
these Enron guys, John Arnold, is going around trying to get states to cut

And then, a lot of these investments were basically turned over to Wall
Street to these dicey hedge funds, CalPERS, the California retirement
system, lost over $1 billion on three structured investment vehicles that
were rated AAA. And you can go across the country and find just epic

And Wall Street hasn`t had to pay a dime. And they`re saying the elderly
must pay, that we have greedy geezers who are problem.

CAPEHART: Right. That`s a very strongly held sentiment. We have to take
a quick break. We`ll be right back, and talk about something that could
affect millions of Americans, when we come back after this.



GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If you want to understand what this
problem will do to you, look at the city of Detroit. The city of Detroit
just went bankrupt.

They had $11 billion in debt and $2 billion in cash. That`s a problem. Of
the $11 billion in debt, $9.5 billion of it was pension and retiree health

Ladies and gentlemen, that`s where we`re headed. That`s where we`re


CAPEHART: So, you heard it, from Governor Christie. Does he have a point?
Is new jersey and other states, potentially other states, headed down the
same road as Detroit? Any one of you, jump in.

FRIEDMAN: I just think that`s absolutely ridiculous. First of all, all of
these so-called calculations in pension funding are subject to
manipulation. There`s -- if you look at one set of calculations about
Detroit, for instance, you will see that the pension plans are 98 percent
funding or 90 percent, depending on which plan you`re talking about.

As soon as the emergency manager came in, voila, suddenly you had these
ballooning liabilities in the plan. It depends. You could have an
interest rate assumption, and without going into all the details, that go
up or down, and it changes by billions of dollars under funding.

KHALFANI-COX: I think the clear thing, though, it`s obvious that cities
and states across the country are watching Detroit. And politicians are
saying, hmm, if they get away with it, can we, potentially?

The scope of the problem, as Karen raised earlier, is really one big
question for us to talk about, because depending on whose numbers you
believe, we have a massive pension underfunding problem in this country.
Or actually it`s not so severe. The Rockefeller Institute says there`s 14
million Americans whose pensions are underfunded to the tune of $1

Now, other people quibble with those numbers and argue and say, you know
what, it`s very concentrated. It`s just a handful of states where there`s
been corruption, where there`s been fiscal mismanagement, where there`s
been questionable investment deals.

The reality, though, is that we are our brother`s keeper. If it`s
happening in New York or Virginia or Tennessee or California or my state,
New Jersey, it`s going to affect all of us one way or another. So we
really do have to deal with this. And we`ve got to talk credibly and
honestly about it, without a lot of manipulation of the numbers.

FRIEDMAN: Let me say one more thing -- well, you go and I`ll go.

RAZZA: I was going to say, just picking up on our brother`s keeper theme,
we`re not just talking about retiree health plans and retiree benefits.
We`re also talking about our basic investment in the public services. And
so, there was a study that just came out about teacher pensions that was
advocating for a system that would encourage people who are going to be
leaving the field.

Well, it`s important for us to be investing, as we were talking about
before, in a compensation package where maybe the wages aren`t competitive
with the private sector, but publicly minded people will be able to still
take those jobs, because they know their retirement security is accounted
for, that they can put in the years to develop increase and skills and be
able to really take on the challenges and in a classroom, for instance,

If you defund the pensions, then you`re going to be moving people out who
would be developing that experience and expertise to teach a classroom of
people who don`t have -- kids who don`t have basic literacy. And who can
read full stories in kindergarten. You don`t know that coming straight

GUPTA: I think one of the interesting stories about Detroit, one of the
bailouts involved, $230 million that Barclays is putting up and being paid
for by the taxpayers, that`s going to pay off swaps by bank of America,
these are these financial weapons of mass destruction. So we can`t pay
retirees who may be living on $1,200 a month, but we can pay these exotic
financial instruments, more investment bankers --


KHALFANI-COX: They sort of negotiated it down to the lofty little mark of
85 million at this point, which is still a lot of money for a bankrupt city
to be paying. And this deals with the question of, who bears the burden?
Who should take this loss on this?

No matter where you stand on the issues of the numbers and what`s going on
in Detroit, can anyone credibly argue that pensioners, current retirees or
folks who are working on the job right now, who have been made certain
guarantees and promises, who negotiated promises in good faith, that they
are, quote/unquote, "responsible"? That they are the ones who have put
this problem into effect?

Absolutely not! Who could credibly argue that?

CAPEHART: And on that note, we have to go. I didn`t think I would get so
into this pension discussion, but I did.

Thank you, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, Connie Razza, Arun Gupta, and Karen

Coming up, world-famous ballerina Misty Copeland back in Nerdland.


CAPEHART: One more day of searching, and still no answers as to the
whereabouts or fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which was scheduled to
land in Beijing 16 days ago.

But this morning, authorities said a French satellite has captured new
images of debris near the search area in the southern Indian Ocean.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers speculated last week that the
flight had crashed into the Indian Ocean, and stood behind that this
morning, when asked by host David Gregory on NBC`s "Meet the Press".


highest probability, David. You can`t take anything quite off the list
yet. But when you look at what is probable and what is plausible, it
certainly rates as the plausible.

So what they`ll continue to do is try to identify every background on every
passenger to make sure they`re not missing something and then they won`t be
able to really put this whole case together until they find the aircraft.

And I do believe, based on everything that I`ve seen so far, it is likely
and probable that it crashed into the Indian Ocean.


CAPEHART: Joining me now from Washington is Robert Francis, the former
vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. He helped lead
the investigation into TWA Flight 800, which exploded and crashed off Long
Island in 1996.

Mr. Francis, thanks for being here.


CAPEHART: What do you make of Congressman Rogers` theory?

FRANCIS: I agree with just about everything that he said. I think that
it`s the most likely place that the aircraft went down, because I --
regardless of what the satellites are seeing, I don`t think they`ve seen
any pieces of the airplane. It`s just -- it`s just not likely that that`s
going to be the case.

And if anything is to be seen on the ocean, it`s not going to be big, long
pieces of the airplane. It`s going to be seats or suitcases or life
preservers or whatever is -- can float.

CAPEHART: That leads to the question I was going to ask you, how
significant are these discoveries of possible debris to this point?

FRANCIS: I think -- I think the chances that this debris has anything to
do with this accident are de minimis.

CAPEHART: Do any of the reported pilot actions report somehow that they
might be at fault? Or is it too early to tell?

FRANCIS: Well, I mean, I think you can always analyze and construe things
as the spirit moves you, but I haven`t seen anything that would indicate to
me that the pilots were at fault at all. And I think the whole baloney of
going and looking at this guy`s computer, and the fact that he had deleted
something, you know, lots and lots of pilots have computers and they like
to play with them and all of us delete from our computers all the time. So

CAPEHART: The fact that there are little pieces of wood, large pieces of
possible debris, do you think this is indicative of a plane crash?

FRANCIS: I would not take what I`ve heard to be indicative of a plane

CAPEHART: Robert --

FRANCIS: Excuse me, I think it`s far more likely to have come off some
ship that`s bringing whatever it is through that part of the ocean.

CAPEHART: Mm-hmm. Robert Francis in Washington, D.C., thank you.

FRANCIS: You`re welcome.

CAPEHART: Stay with MSNBC throughout the day for the latest on this still-
developing story.

But up next for us, groundbreaking ballerina Misty Copeland joins us in
studio to talk about her life in motion.


CAPEHART: In an industry dominated by young white women who typically
begin dancing at age 5 or earlier, world renowned ballerina Misty Copeland
is considered a prodigy. Not only did Misty start training at age 13,
which is very late for a ballerina, she fought through personal and
financial hardships to reach her goal. In 2007, Misty became the first
African-American female in two decades to be a soloist at the American
ballet theatre, one of the world`s leading classical ballet companies.

In her new memoir "Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina," she chronicles
her inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking journey to becoming a superstar

Misty and her five siblings were raised by her mother and a series of her
mother`s husbands and boyfriends, or is she describes it, a pattern of,
quote, "packing, scrambling, and leaving, often barely surviving."

She spent parts of her teen years living out of a motel room and was at the
center of a public custody battle between her mother and a dance

Misty was once a timid and shy young dancer dealing with racism at a very
young age. Today, the 31-year-old has danced with celebrities like prince,
won several awards, broken barriers, and come to represent a more modern
and inclusive future of ballet.

I don`t know if you can tell, but I`m excited to have Misty Copeland
joining me onset.



CAPEHART: So great to meet you.

COPELAND: I`m excited, too. Nice to meet you as well.

CAPEHART: So, tell us about your book. Why did you decide to share your

COPELAND: I knew at some point I would be sharing my story because I just
don`t have the typical background of what people expect from a classical
ballet dancer at this level. I know how many children can relate to my
story. I think it`s a universal story of overcoming and having dreams, and
knowing that no matter what your background and your family situations are,
as an adult, you can turn things around. I don`t think it`s ever too late
to strive for and dream big.

CAPEHART: You only trained for four years before you were invited to join
the American Ballet Theatre, and you were the only African-American woman
in the company of 80 dancers.

How did you breakthrough both those barriers?

COPELAND: I think it was just really having confidence in myself and
trying not to get caught up in that. And that`s a lot of responsibility
and a lot of weight on someone, to think about things that way. I had
amazing people that entered my life and were mentors to me that helped to
guide me, and for me to think of myself as another dancer and not to feel
so secluded, even though I did at times, but just a lot of hard work and

CAPEHART: In the prologue, there are several points where you say, "This
is for little brown girls."

Is that your motivation to be great?

COPELAND: It is. Those moments -- I`ve been touring with my book "Life in
Motion." And when I get out there and see the faces of these young brown
girls, or not even that. I see all colors, children who are fascinated,
who see themselves through me, no matter what they look like. That`s my
motivation. Those days when I wake up in the morning, my body is killing
me and I`m just like, I just can`t make it today, I think of those girls.

So I think that`s what the reference is. It`s for the little brown girls.

CAPEHART: I want to read something that struck me. There`s a fight that
you had with your brother. And he said, "What do you do anyway, dancers
are dumb. All they do is use their bodies, not their brains." You said
his words stung.

You said, "I knew that he wasn`t the only person that felt that way, that
he was one of so many others who would never understand all that it took to
be a dancer, how we had to meld so many parts, our brains, our emotions,
our bodies to put on a performance that hid all the streams, leaving only
stardust for the audience to see.

COPELAND: Yes, those words still stick with me today. I know he didn`t
mean to hurt me.

But I think that the opportunities I`ve had to work with artists like
Prince, to be a spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, to
have an Under Armour deal, I think these are all ways of getting it out
there, to show people that we`re athletes and the hard work that goes into
what we do. It`s not just about the physical, which is extremely
demanding, but making it look effortless and becoming an actress.

And I just want people to understand that we use every single part of our
beings to become this onstage.

CAPEHART: As you also say in the book, how much thought it takes and how
much love.

COPELAND: Yes. There`s so much thought that goes into every step that we
take. That`s why it looks so effortless out there. So it looks as if
maybe we`re not thinking, we`re just kind of following the music. And
that`s what we`re supposed to make it look like.

But we are athletes out there, as well as artists. So, it`s amazing to be
able to bring that to so many people, through my story, through this book,
through all the platforms I`ve been given.

CAPEHART: So, I can`t believe we`re running out of time, but have you seen
any change in the way minority communities embrace classical ballet now
that you have broken the traditional mold?

COPELAND: I have. I think that sparking a conversation, being on shows
like this are making people talk about it and address these issues, which
is we need to diversify classical ballet. And I do think I see a change
with the initiative project playing with American Ballet Theater and the
Boys and Girls Clubs of America. It`s sparking that conversation. It`s
getting people to try to make change and diversify it.

CAPEHART: And you mentioned in your book that ballerinas never stop
learning and growing. So what`s next for Misty Copeland?

COPELAND: Never stop. I leave Tuesday for Abu Dhabi for a premiere of my
first principal role in a three-act classical ballet Swanilda in
"Coppelia". And then our spring season that`s May through July at the
Metropolitan Opera House here in New York City and you can see me do many
principal roles there. So,, you can find out all about it.

CAPEHART: I`m going to after this. Misty Copeland, thank you so
much for coming.

COPELAND: Thank you for having me.

CAPEHART: And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for

And thank you, Melissa, and the entire Nerdland team for the honor of
sitting in this chair.

I want to let everyone know that Melissa Harris-Perry will be back here --
yes, Melissa is returning to the program next Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

Now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" -- Alex.



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