ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
March 25, 2014
Guests: Joan Claybrook, Dahlia Lithwick
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
Just how much can a corporation get away with? That`s the question
everyone is asking from Detroit to Washington, D.C., today.
A blockbuster report in "The New York Times" today reveals that
General Motors knew about potentially fatal defects in the vehicles they
were selling for almost five years before they pulled them off the road.
The question now is, how did this happen?
MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: After all, something went wrong with
our process in this instance. And terrible things happened.
HAYES (voice-over): Over the past decade, General Motors has been
aware that over a million of their cars on the road potentially had a fatal
glitch -- an ignition switch that could suddenly turn off the engine and
airbag system while the car was driving. As early as 2004, G.M. knew of at
least one incident where this happened. An engineer found that something
as simple as a weighted key chain could cause the Cobalt to lose power.
Solutions to fix the flaw were rejected by G.M. after consideration of
the lead time required cost and effectiveness of each of these solutions.
In 2005, a G.M. engineer proposed a redesign to fix the flaw. Those plans
Instead, G.M. sent out a service bulletin to its dealerships warning
drivers not to use heavy key chains. In the summer of 2005, 16-year-old
Amber Marie Rose was killed after the airbag in her Chevy Cobalt failed to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ignition switch was actually in the
accessory position which in effect turned the airbags off.
Even back in 2005, I saw indications that G.M. was aware that this
problem was occurring.
HAYES: In April of 2007, regulators were notified by an investigator
that Rose`s crash was linked to the faulty ignition. They did not open an
And by the end of 2007, General Motors was aware of four crashes
related to their faulty ignition. They gathered the black boxes from the
cars, but it wasn`t until years later, in the spring of 2009, that
engineers met and confirmed that a potentially fatal defect existed in
hundreds of thousands of cars.
Less than two months later, G.M. filed one of the largest bankruptcy
agreements in U.S. history. The General Motors that emerged from
bankruptcy was absolved of its liability from all crashes before June 2009.
Meanwhile, the company continued to mislead and ignore the families of
victims. In fact, years after finding out definitively about the link,
they continued to tell families of accident victims that they did not have
enough evidence of any defect in their cars. In one case, G.M. threatened
to come after the family of an accident victim for reimbursement of legal
fees if the family did not withdraw its lawsuit.
Finally, last month, G.M. recalled 1.6 million small cars, including
the Cobalt which was discontinued in 2010. The number of deaths caused by
the glitchy ignition is in dispute. General Motors say they have evidence
of 12 related deaths. Independent experts say as many as 303 people have
Here`s what`s not in dispute. In the spring of 2009, G.M. knew that
millions of their cars had a potentially fatal ignition glitch. It took
them almost five years to take those cars off the roads.
HAYES: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Josh Barro. He`s got a new
job, national correspondent for "The New York Times."
And Joan Claybrook, former director of the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration under the Carter presidency. The auto industry
bestowed her with the nickname "The Dragon Lady" during her tenure there.
I`d wear as a badge of pride if I were you.
Joan, can I start with you? I have to say, I read "Unsafe at Any
Speed", the famous Ralph Nader book from the 1960s about recalls and auto
safety, and I thought I was fairly jaded and cynical. But when you put all
the facts together of this G.M. case, I came away shaking my head. I
really can`t believe this still happens.
JOAN CLAYBROOK, FORMER DIR., NHTSA: It`s amazing. It`s totally
General Motors covered this up, in my view, for fine years. They knew
people were dying. Lawsuits were filed. Investigations were done in great
detail by the Department of Transportation and General Motors designed a
part that would expect it. Somebody in the company said, no, we`re not
going to do it and they sent bulletins to dealers, but that`s it.
And they should be ashamed of themselves. I hope that the Justice
Department criminal investigation will result in both jail time and in
significant financial penalties for this company.
HAYES: Let me ask you this, and then Josh, I want to get your take on
this. But, you know, there is this grisly business of calculating the
value of a human life that anyone in the safety business has to go about,
right? So, in some theoretical sense, if there was an auto glitch that had
an expectation that it would take one life away and it would cost $40
billion to get rid of it, right, we wouldn`t expect the company to do that.
How are those decisions made? And who should be making them? Because
in this case, it seems like G.M. just went to the numbers and said, it`s
not worth it.
CLAYBROOK: Well, I don`t think General Motors does a calculation on
the value of a life. I think they do their calculations based on the cost
of the recall.
CLAYBROOK: And the Department of Transportation says that a life is
worth $9 million. So that`s nothing compared to the cost of a big recall.
I understand that.
But when you add in the lawsuits and you add in the penalties from the
SEC, potentially in the G.M. bailout, lying to the government, fraud,
Justice Department criminal penalties, it adds up. It`s big-time, and, of
course, the loss of support from their customers who are infuriated about
HAYES: Well, Josh, that`s, of course, one of the arguments you hear
about regulation which is making defective products should be bad for
business. The market should sort of sniff and price that out. This to me
is the perfect example of the problem with that argument which is that
cause and effect aren`t clear to the end user.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, General Motors is a company that
made a lot of bad business decisions over the years that have not been good
for shareholders. So, I don`t think it`s surprising gm management might
make a decision that wasn`t good for shareholder value and, therefore, that
the fact that this hasn`t been good for business isn`t something that
actually protected consumers here.
I think it`s early to say, you know, exactly who has what liability at
G.M. I don`t think we know yet who within gm knew what when.
I think that there must have been smart management people there who
would have realized this was going to result in this sort of problem that
is damaging to the reputation and that ultimately also leads to them likely
having significant liability. So I think this is, you know, a terrible
thing that happened here, but it`s early to get out the jury.
HAYES: Well, and I think one of the lessons to me, at least, is sort
of the vigilance necessary in this arena. Joan, we were looking back over
the data today and it`s actually pretty stunning. If you take auto
fatalities per hundred million miles traveled, in 1950, it was seven
fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
This year, 2011, it`s down. And you see in there some of the
landmarks, Nader`s "Unsafe at Any Speed," the Highway Safety Act passed
seat belts are mandated. Center (INAUDIBLE) mandated, that`s the brake
light you can see. All states had set the drinking age up to 21. Federal
speed limit controls eliminated.
This has been a remarkable accomplishment between engineering,
regulation, and law and policy to massively diminish the fatalities
associated with autos.
CLAYBROOK: Oh, absolutely it has. And it`s been a lot of hard work
and a lot of very tough leaders in the Congress. I think that it is a
remarkable story. But that doesn`t in any way diminish the responsibility
of both General Motors, other auto companies and the Department of
Transportation to be the, you know, on the case and for the Department of
Transportation to be the cop on the beat, to be tough, to be looking for
these problems, the Department of Transportation still says that it never
had enough evidence to open an investigation in this case.
I don`t know what more you need --
CLAYBROOK: -- when the airbag doesn`t work and when the power
steering doesn`t work and the power brakes don`t work because the ignition
turns itself off, what more evidence do you need that this is a risk to
CLAYBROOK: And I just disagree with their handling of this
HAYES: Well, it does seem in retrospect the regulators in 2007 really
dropped the ball partly, because, Josh, it`s a glitch that is so
intuitively clear, right? The key is in the ignition and it just slips off
and all of a sudden you find yourself without power.
And this was something that was pretty eye opening in the "Wall Street
Journal" today. General Motors engineering knew about the problems on the
2005 Cobalt that could disable power steering, power brakes and airbags but
launched the car because they believed vehicles could be safely coasted off
the road after a stall, according to court documents.
BARRO: Well, we`ve seen that in some of the narratives, right, where,
for example, you had cases where people had blood alcohol limits above the
legal limit but also their airbag shut down. Quite possibly they would
have lived either if there wouldn`t have been the defect or if they had
been sober at the time they were driving.
So, I think -- yes, it`s not reasonable to assume, oh, if you car
shuts down, you`ll figure out what to do in that situation. But I do think
it points to the fact this is, you know, whether we`re talking about a few
dozen or a few hundred deaths, we have about 30,000 auto fatalities a year.
And the overarching cause is driver error.
And a big part of that decline over the last several decades is
regulation and engineering as you describe. But it`s also changes in norms
where people, there`s a stronger norm in favor of wearing seat belts than
there used to be. There`s a stronger norm against drunk driving. People
feel that`s an immoral activity.
So there can be further changes in that area, too. We need stronger
regulation to ensure that vehicles are safe, but we also need to get
drivers to drive --
HAYES: What about Joan said about criminal liability? What do you
think of that?
BARRO: Well, I think it will depend about what we find out about who
knew what at G.M.
HAYES: Joan, how -- is there precedent for criminal liability in
these cases? You talked about jail time.
CLAYBROOK: Well, the Toyota case where the cars ran away on their own
because of the floor mats, and I believe also electronic issue which has
never been totally resolved. But the Justice Department imposed a $1.2
billion civil dollar find under criminal fraud statutes on Toyota.
But they didn`t put anyone in jail. They have continuing oversight of
the company for three years. But I think they should have put someone in
jail because that`s a game changer.
CLAYBROOK: If you have to go to jail and you`re an executive, that`s
the end of your, "well maybe we should and maybe we shouldn`t" attitude.
The other thing is neither the auto companies nor the Department of
Transportation really pay any attention to consumer complaints which is the
best free information either one could get. What`s going on out there on
the highway, and they don`t use the information they have.
General Motors is also, you know, exempt from because of the bailout,
provision in the bailout. They`re exempt --
HAYES: They`re exempt from liability before 2009. They`re
maintaining all the deaths due to this came before 2009. I should note.
MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, Joan Claybrook, former director of the
NHTSA -- thank you both.
CLAYBROOK: Thank you.
HAYES: All right. Imagine for a minute a company that wouldn`t pay
for health insurance that covered treatment for AIDS because of what the
owners of that company`s religious or moral beliefs held. There`s a case
that`s not too far from that before the Supreme Court today. What the
justices had to say about it, ahead.
HAYES: Coming up, what`s the last truly offensive racial slur you can
casually say at parties or workplace and not bring the conversation to a
screeching halt? The answer, ahead.
HAYES: Do you remember the last time Obamacare came before the
Supreme Court? It was kind of a hot mess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it appears as if the Supreme Court justices
have struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the health care
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have breaking news here on the FOX News
Channel. The individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re getting conflicting information.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re getting conflicting information. The
question is, has the individual mandate been upheld or has it not? And it
appears that the answer is the law will stand.
CROWD: Repeal it now! Repeal it now! Repeal it now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, today, the Affordable Care Act was back before the court
for a rematch of sorts. As part of the right`s quest to subvert, destroy
or at the very least whittle away at the edges of the law.
The question this time and the reason there were hundreds of activists
outside the Supreme Court today was whether a corporation can object to
mandatory birth control coverage in health care plans based on that
corporation`s claim of religious liberty.
Most of today`s protesters were there to argue that, no, the owner of
a giant company should not be allowed to restrict his employees` health
coverage based on his own personal religious beliefs. The lead plaintiff
in the case, hobby lobby, had its supporters outside the courthouse as
The chain of 500 arts and crafts stores with 13,000 employees is owned
by CEO David green who objects to certain methods of birth control like
Bear in mind the preventative care coverage mandated under the
Affordable Care Act includes literally dozens of screenings, services,
drugs and immunizations, most of which have nothing to do with
contraception. But so far, the only one that`s being challenged all the
way up to the Supreme Court on religious liberty grounds involves women`s
ability to control their own reproductive health. Something several women
justices couldn`t help but note.
Joining me now, Dahlia Lithwick. She`s senior editor at Slate.com,
where she covers the Supreme Court.
Dahlia, there`s so much to get to in this argument. Before we do any
of it, I want to make this point. The factual claim Hobby Lobby is making
which is certain forms of contraceptions they object to are actually
abortion is an untrue claim about the actual science, right? I want to
establish that because everything proceeds from there.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM: You can establish it for your purposes
and for the purposes of life, Chris --
HAYES: Which is important.
LITHWICK: Which is important. But I just want to be clear not only
does that almost not matter, it almost doesn`t arise today.
LITHWICK: The solicitor general`s office goes further and says, you
know what, we`re going to assume that they are in good faith when they say
this is what they believe and we`re not touching it. So over and over
again today, the issue -- you`re watching it not come up, the issue of, you
know, you say this is an abortifacient. Science disputes that, all of
popular medical opinion disputes that.
It doesn`t get heard. Not only that, the S.G.`s office goes as far to
say, we take your word, if you believe this, we will not probe that
HAYES: So the big thing I think immediately when people think about
this, they think about there`s a few things. First is, corporations, are
corporations a kind of entities that have religious conscience, religious
liberty as opposed to individuals, human beings?
At some point, Justice Sotomayor talks about that. She says how does
a corporation exercise religious? I mean, I know it speaks and we have
according to our jurisprudence, 200 years of corporations speaking in its
own interests. Where the cases that show a corporation exercises religion?
Is the court in new ground here?
LITHWICK: It`s clearly in new ground. And this is one of the issues
that comes up, and Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general, says over and
over again what Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, which is the Pennsylvania
cabinet maker, the other plaintiff in this case, what they`re asking for is
totally legally unprecedented. They`re asking to have -- not just a
corporation, be clear, a for-profit corporation, they`re asking to say it
has free exercise rights, that it is a person for purposes of RFRA,
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and this has never been done.
And you`re going to cry when I tell you this, but Justice Scalia`s
response to -- well, no court has ever held that corporations have
religious freedom is -- well, no court has ever not held that they -- so
you can -- that`s how my 8 -year-old argues. That`s the answer, is that
it`s never not been done. So, there we are.
HAYES: So, so after you sort of establish this, so let`s assume,
let`s say a corporation is a person for these purposes. There`s some sort
of interest here.
OK. Then the next thing people hear in this case is, what are the
slippery slopes? There seem slippery slopes in other direction. One of
them, Sotomayor again brought up today. She said, "Is your claim limited
to sensitive materials like contraceptives or include blood transfusions or
vaccines in for some religions, products made of pork? Is there any claim
under your theory that has a religious basis, could the employer preclude
the use of those items as well?"
That seems to me a fairly devastating argument. What is Hobby Lobby`s
lawyer`s answer to that?
LITHWICK: Well, his answer to that is let`s confine ourselves to this
sensitive materials. Already, you know, red flags, why is this sensitive
whereas AIDS treatment, blood transfusions and civil rights laws are not
sensitive? I think that`s code for has to do with sex.
But he tries to cabin it, Chris, by saying, you know, those other
things are different. This is about something that isn`t that sprawling
array of other, you know, parade of horribles. And he goes on to say,
look, you know, RFRA`s been around since 1993 and haven`t seen Jehovah`s
Witnesses come forward and haven`t seen Mennonites come forward and haven`t
seen this parade of horribles. So, clearly, they`re not out there. That`s
HAYES: Judge Anthony Kennedy kind of did the slippery slope on the
other side basically saying, under your view -- this is, again, to the
solicitor general, Solicitor General Don Verrilli, who`s representing the
federal government in this case. "Under your view a profit corporation
could be forced in principle," there are some statutes on the books that
could prevent it, "but could be forced in principle to pay for abortions."
I have to say, I was not clear that wasn`t -- what does Don Verrilli
say to that, yes, right?
LITHWICK: Well, he`s in a tough spot --
HAYES: He`s smart enough not to say yes.
LITHWICK: He doesn`t say yes, but he`s in a tough spot. I want to
just emphasize that Chief Justice John Roberts who people thought might be
neutral on this the way he was kind of trying to broker a deal in the eight
cases. Roberts came right out and said, yes, it`s clear for their purposes
by their beliefs this is being forced to provide an abortion.
And Paul Clement in his closing said the same thing. So, that`s the
impression you`re left with, this is the slippery slope to think about.
HAYES: So, what does this mean for the next line of cases? One of
the things if you take a step back here that I kind of have this sneaking
suspicious, I don`t want impute bad faith. But let me just say it does
feel a little bit like you can`t please these folks in this sense, right?
So, in this case you have this for-profit corporation says we don`t
want to do this birth control mandate. Coming up before the court, you`re
going to have the Little Sisters of Poor who have an accommodation under
the law where they have to sign a form so they don`t have to provide this
birth control coverage. They`re saying signing the form, itself, violates
their religious liberty.
It does feel a little bit like people have a problem with the law, or
they have a problem with birth control more than they have the sort of
abstract principle beliefs. Maybe I am interpreting them through bad
LITHWICK: No, I mean, one of the interesting side skirmishes that
didn`t get much press today is the court kind of pressing Paul Clement on,
look, if you just have to sign the form the way the Little Sisters have to
sign the form, would that be enough? Or does that trigger abortions in
LITHWICK: And Paul Clement has a tough time answering.
So, you`re quite right to say the next line of defense is going to be
we object to this, too. And that worried the liberal members of the court
a lot today.
HAYES: I will be 70 years old covering legal challenges to the
Affordable Care Act.
Dahlia Lithwick from Slate.com, thank you very much.
LITHWICK: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up, in 2012, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson
put more than $92 million behind failed presidential candidates like Newt
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELDON ADELSON, CASINO MAGNATE: I`m in favor of Newt Gingrich
because I like people who make decisions. He`s a decision-maker. You
don`t have to worry about using the word Islamo-fascism or Islamo-terrorist
when that`s what they are. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the
terrorists are Islamists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That guy, Sheldon Adelson, would like to win this time. So
he`s holding his very own presidential primary in Vegas this weekend. More
on that, next.
HAYES: 2016 presidential election is still 2 1/2 years away, but the
first 2016 primary is already taking place. While it doesn`t technically
appear on any official election calendar, and there will only be one actual
vote cast, it may prove more important for Republican presidential hopefuls
in Iowa and New Hampshire combined.
I`m talking, of course, about what`s been dubbed the Sheldon primary
named after this guy, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate worth more than
$38 billion according to "Forbes," making him the eighth richest man in the
The Sheldon primary kicks off this week at the Adelson-owned nonunion
Venetian Luxury Hotel in Las Vegas during what`s officially spring meeting
of the Republican Jewish coalition, where amid the speeches, golf outing,
poker tournament and gala dinner, Adelson plans to hold unofficial one-on-
one meetings with Republican hopefuls to have flown to Vegas for the
occasion according to "The Washington Post." That includes former Florida
Governor Jeb Bush who will be the featured speaker at a VIP dinner at the
private airplane hangar where Adelson keeps his fleet as well as three
other men believed to be exploring a presidential run in 2016 -- Governors
Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and John Kasich of
So, why is it so important for these guys to win the Sheldon primary?
Well, because Sheldon Adelson will spend a whole lot of money to try to get
his chosen candidate elected. We know that Adelson and his wife spend at
least $98 million in the 2012 campaign cycle to boost GOP candidates,
though they may have intent much more.
Two GOP fund-raisers told the "Washington Post" Adelson spent closer
to $150 million. He gave $20 million to the super PAC backing Newt
Gingrich, money that helped Gingrich stay in the race and prolong the GOP
primary process to the great consternation of the Republican establishment
which wanted it over.
And Adelson could spend way more than that on a candidate this time
around. After all, this is a guy that "Forbes" says makes an average of
$32 million a day. And when you`re making that much, what`s a few hundred
million between friends? Hey, it`s not like these throwing the money away.
Consider his latest cause, the scourge of online gambling, which he
says he opposes for, let`s be clear, moral reasons, not because it could
compete with his own casinos.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SHELDON ADELSON, CHAIRMAN, LAS VEGAS SANDS CORP.: Any skeptic could
say that I am -- that money is the consideration. Money is not the
consideration with me.
I think it`s a train wreck. That`s -- it`s really toxicity. It`s a
cancer waiting to happen.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes. Why would you think money was a consideration for
Sheldon Adelson? Adelson and his wife donated more than $15,000 to Senator
Lindsey Graham`s campaign last year. And, soon, according to Politico,
Graham plans to introduce a bill to ban Internet gambling, even though
Internet gambling is not an issue that had previously attracted much of his
You can see why spending a couple hundred million dollars on a
presidential candidate might look like an awfully good investment.
We reached out to a spokesperson who declined our request for an
interview with Sheldon Adelson.
Joining me now is Robert Reich, former secretary of labor in the
Clinton administration, now professor of political policy at the University
of California, Berkeley.
All right. I want to play devil`s advocate. We think about big
money. We think about big money as this monster that drives the agenda,
but one could argue that, in the 2012 primary, eccentric billionaires
actually were a kind of revolutionary presence in a Republican primary.
They kept the establishment from closing ranks.
Foster Friess funded Rick Santorum. Adelson funded Gingrich. It kept
them competing and actually disrupted and kept things more open and
democratic. What say you?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, I would agree with
anything until the last words you used, more democratic.
I don`t think that`s more democratic. When you have a few
billionaires who are actually keeping the Republican primary going, keeping
Republicans going, and it looks like they might be keeping even some
Democrats going, that`s not exactly the democratic process.
HAYES: Yes, that`s a fair point. It`s a little more of the Kentucky
Derby model, right, where you have wealthy owners of horses who back their
horses and race them down the track and they cheer, but it`s all basically
a rich person`s game.
And, in fact, that`s really the problem. In fact, we have gone in
this country over the last 25 years -- as income and wealth have become
more concentrated, Chris, we have gone from political parties that used to
-- I remember the day, believe it or not -- I`m not that old -- when
political parties would sort of represent most people, to political parties
in the 1980s and 1990s that became fund-raising devices for mostly going to
And now we have the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and a lot of
others, several others, not a lot, but really a handful of billionaires
creating their own political parties, their own political apparatus. The
Sheldon primary is a good example. I mean, you have candidates who are
going to be beholden not to political parties, but to billionaires, if they
And I think it`s interesting. The scourge that always -- that
campaign finance activists talk about is the quid pro quo, and usually it
doesn`t work like that. Usually, it`s just much more complicated and
overdetermined than, I give you money, you deliver for me on a piece of
But we`re getting to the point where the amount of money is so large
and the interest of the people giving the money is so mementos, we are
going to get to a quid pro quo straight-up, out-in-the-open scandal that`s
going to break it all. That is my prediction.
We`re going to have a crisis moment where it just is the case that
some plutocrat gives hundreds of millions of dollars and just gets
something straight-up in return.
REICH: Well, it`s already happening. If it were going to be a make-
or-break point, there`s plenty of evidence around that big corporations and
some very wealthy individuals have got exactly what they want.
I think it`s going to be a race between increasing cynicism on the
part of the public and kind of an end post for major reform that comes
through repeating -- repeated scandal, repeated stories about these major,
major funders, billionaires, basically controlling more and more of the
HAYES: I thought it was interesting. There was a poll on the Koch
brothers, and it was asking folks what they thought of them, and 12 percent
a favorable impression, 25 percent an unfavorable impression, 11 percent no
opinion. A majority of people, a slim majority, had never heard of them.
And so this interesting asymmetry that happens as well, where I would
guess most people don`t know who Sheldon Adelson is. They could maybe name
their senator, maybe name their governor. Here`s a guy who arguably has
more power than either, and people don`t know them. In some ways, they`re
not actually public figures, unless the press and journalism makes them
REICH: But I think that`s precisely the point, Chris.
It`s not only you right now this minute who are making Adelson and
Koch brothers more public figures, but the press in general, the media in
general are beginning to respond to what the public feels. And that is
that the game is basically loaded. It`s tilted in favor of a few
billionaires that are really rigging it for their benefit.
It`s not just Sheldon Adelson and online gambling. It`s also the Koch
brothers, who really don`t want environmental regulations, because all of
their petrochemical plants and industry don`t want any environmental. It`s
a series of billionaires that basically are taking over our democracy.
HAYES: The thing that always strikes me is that, if you look at the
years -- I mean, the grand irony that underlies all of this is that if you
look at the Obama administration years, from the great -- from 2009 when he
took office until now, all of these people are doing so much better.
The people that have -- what we have seen is accelerating inequality.
We have seen billionaires whose worth have doubled.
HAYES: The ones who are complaining and using all that money to go
after the Democratic Party and Barack Obama and the people...
REICH: There`s no question.
HAYES: They have done so well.
REICH: There`s no question. They have done -- the stock market has
I mean, it`s these people who have never, never, ever done better.
Adelson is making about $1.5 million per hour. I mean, compare that to...
HAYES: Oh my lord.
REICH: ... the minimum wage worker at $7.25. And, I mean, there`s no
-- these people have never had more power. We`re moving, I think, toward a
kind of -- well, it`s not exactly a Russian oligarchy, but it feels an
awful lot like -- less like a plutocracy, more like an oligarchy.
HAYES: It`s funny. We use the word oligarchy when talking about
other countries, but we may need to import that back domestically.
REICH: Sadly, I think that`s the case. Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, thanks.
His documentary "Inequality for All" is out now.
Coming up: The owner of on NFL team says he wants to help American
Indians, but is keeping his team named after a racial slur, today in
missing the point ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia is a regional
power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of
strength, but out of weakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President Obama had some extremely barbed comments today,
dismissing Russia as a threat to the United States, and throwing some shade
at Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally
don`t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative
relationship with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It was a pretty sweet burn, all things considered.
But just so we`re all clear about the history of this country, by
which I mean the United States, the term generally, in the statement we --
generally, we don`t invade our neighbors is doing a lot of work.
Of course, just over the last, say, 10 years, there were the non-
neighbor countries that we invaded or bombed, like Iraq, and Afghanistan,
and Libya, not to mention places we have sent troops, like Nigeria and
Uganda and South Sudan, and places we have sent drones and missiles, like
Yemen and Somalia and Pakistan.
But back to our neighbors, the United States has not actually invaded
anyone we could plausibly call a neighbor in 20 years. And two decades of
non-neighbor-invading is actually a pretty decent run for this country. In
1994, U.S. troops occupied Haiti. Five years earlier, we invaded Panama.
Before that, in 1983, we invaded Grenada, of course. In 1965, we invaded
the Dominican Republic. And in 1961, we famously attempted an ill-fated
invasion of Cuba in the Bay of Pigs, which went so poorly, you might have
thought we would have learned our lesson.
So, in the course of, well, a half-a-century, 20 years without
invading a neighbor is the longest we have ever gone. Let`s not screw that
run up, because one of the great side benefits of not invading your
neighbors is the little extra punch it gives you when you`re called on to
comment on the totally unacceptable invasion of another country by its
HAYES: Dan Snyder is the owner of the NFL`s Washington, D.C.,
football team whose name might be the last racial slur you can get away
with saying at work.
It`s so offensive the sports reporters and columnists from "Sports
Illustrated," "The San Francisco Chronicle," "The Kansas City Star," "USA
Today" and "The Philadelphia Daily News" have pledged not to use it.
Last fall, my NBC colleague Bob Costas did a really great job of
explaining just why it`s so offensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if
directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any
other ethnic group.
When considered that way, Redskins can`t possibly honor a heritage or
a noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term.
It`s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: With this kind of pressure building against it, it is getting
harder and harder for Dan Snyder to defend the team`s name, to defend what
is really indefensible.
Now, there`s a very simple solution to Snyder`s problem. He could
just change the name of his team. And, sure, adopting a new name would be
a headache and would surely cost the team some money. But it`s hard to
imagine the cost of a name change being all that painful to a franchise
that, according to Forbes, is worth $1.7 billion.
But Dan Snyder will not change his team`s very offensive name,
famously telling "USA Today" last year -- quote -- "We will never change
the name. It`s that simple. Never. You can use caps."
Instead, Snyder has decided to launch a foundation whose mission is to
-- quote -- "provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide
genuine opportunities for tribal communities."
And because Snyder is so serious about the importance of this cause,
he announced this initiative yesterday on letterhead emblazoned with his
team`s racist name.
Suzan Shown Harjo, an American Indian activist and opponent of the
team`s name, told the Associated Press Snyder`s move was -- quote --
"somewhere between a P.R. assault and bribery."
Joining me now to discuss this, former NFL player Roman Oben. He`s
now part of the New York Giants` broadcasting, and writer Dave McKenna, who
wrote a column in 2010, about Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington, D.C.,
football team. Snyder sued the paper over it. The suit was later dropped.
All right, Dave, I will begin with you.
Why won`t he change the name? What is it here? Is it tradition? Is
it just money? What`s the deal?
DAVE MCKENNA, WRITER: Well, It`s because people told him to change
He will change -- tradition doesn`t really mean much to Dan Snyder.
He changed the level -- the club level at FedEx Field. It was called the
Joe Gibbs Level, who is as sacred a figure as there is in Redskins Nation.
And he changed that to StubHub Level this year for money. So he will still
But he also is a very stubborn man. He will not do what you want him
HAYES: So, you think it`s literally the fact that people are saying
you have to do this that`s making him say, I will not do it because you`re
telling me to do it? You think that is the answer?
MCKENNA: Absolutely. Absolutely. If he could come up with a way to
make it look like it`s his idea, he would change it tomorrow.
HAYES: Do you think there is a point -- do you think there will be a
rising crescendo, Roman, where players start to say, hey, this is a
problem, I don`t want to play for a team that has a name like this?
ROMAN OBEN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, I just think for the simple fact
there aren`t a disproportionate number of Native Americans that are playing
in the NFL, I don`t think players really care.
HAYES: Let`s be clear. It would look a lot different if there were.
OBEN: Yes, exactly. And I don`t think players really care one way or
the other. But I think they`re aware of it.
And it`s really about eliminating any negative stereotypes. Being a
negative Washingtonian, growing up in that era, the Redskins are the
reasons why I wanted to play in the NFL. And I went through the Bullets to
the Wizards change. And the argument was, if the name changed of the NBA
team in Washington, does it result -- does it affect the negative
stereotypes and things going on in D.C., the crime rate?
But should you change it and eliminate those negative stereotypes?
HAYES: Yes, so the NBA team in Washington was called the Washington
Bullets. It was changed I believe in the 1990s, right?
OBEN: Yes, `95.
HAYES: Yes, 1995, partly because there was, A -- there was a lot of
crime and homicide in Washington, D.C.
B, there was a sense in which they felt it was glorifying gun
violence, and, C, because it was associated with negative stereotypes
people had about the city. It was changed to the Washington Wizards.
Dave, the franchise did fine. We can imagine a path forward in which
the Washington football team name is changed and they are a perfectly
profitable, cherished institution.
I mean, as Americans, we root who we`re told for. We root for the
Redskins because we`re from here. And it`s ingrained. You root for the
home team. You root for your country in war and your home team in
And so, no matter what it`s called, you will root. Expansion teams,
there`s no tradition. You don`t need tradition to start rooting for a
team. So, that argument doesn`t wash. And the longer this goes on, it`s
going to eventually -- obviously, it`s going to change, because younger
people are not going to want to be associated with something that`s even
thought of as any sort of, you know, racist -- I mean, I joke, semi-joke
that if Snyder keeps talking about this, the Redskins jersey is going to be
the new Klan robe.
Kids are not going to touch it, except in irony or as a symbol of
something very nasty.
HAYES: Do you think that`s going to happen with the fans, though, as
someone who`s a lifelong fan?
I remember going to -- I actually was in FedEx field for a football
game, and it didn`t strike me that that sense of discomfort with the name
of the team and what that name indicates and how offensive it is to people,
that that had seeped into at all the fan base.
OBEN: No, and, again, going back to brand equity, going back to
Daniel Snyder standing behind this 81-year tradition of the Washington
Redskins, it hasn`t hurt his pockets.
People aren`t giving up their suites or their luxury boxes. It hasn`t
affected Dan Snyder negatively. You`re talking about a $1.7 billion
franchise. The franchise would be probably worth a lot more if he did go
through this -- I mean, I`m sure marketing people would have fun with this
new name change and reorganization.
But, again, you back to the foundation. The activists are saying,
don`t throw money at the problem.
OBEN: But if the franchise is worth a lot more money, does he still
throw money at it?
HAYES: So, go back. Go back to this. The argument that Dan Snyder
has given, Dave, constantly, that the Washington P.R. people have rolled
out, is like actual American Indians, they`re fine with this. They`re fine
with this. You hear this all the time.
What`s your response to that argument?
MCKENNA: I don`t buy it.
I mean, I went through the "Washington Post" archives from -- the team
was named in 1933, I believe, by Preston Marshall, a local, a D.C. guy.
And I went through the "Washington Post" archives from that point previous
to find all the references to Redskins, and they`re all incredibly hateful,
even like calling Jim Thorpe the savage Redskin in one column because they
don`t like the way he behaved himself in the Swedish Olympics in 1912.
There`s not one reference of respect. And Marshall is also the guy
who wrote -- whose wife -- he gives his wife credit for writing it, the
theme song, or whatever you call it, the fight song. And it`s the most
racist piece that you have ever seen, swamp them, beat them, heap them,
whomp them. It`s just -- it`s really embarrassing.
HAYES: And it used to be end on fight for old Dixie, if I`m not
MCKENNA: He put that in, in `59 during the -- yes, he put it in when
the civil rights debate came up. That was not originally for Dixie.
HAYES: There you go.
Former NFL player Roman Oben and writer Dave McKenna, thank you,
Coming up, I`m going to talk to a member of the Pawnee Nation of
Oklahoma, also director of Smithsonian Institution`s National Museum of the
Indian, about his reaction to Dan Snyder`s announcement of the foundation.
So stay with us.
HAYES: We will be right back with more of our discussion in a moment.
But, in the meantime, let`s help Danny Snyder out. Right now, go to
ALL IN WITH CHRIS Facebook page and give us your suggestion on a new name
for the Washington, D.C., football team.
I`m kind of liking the Washington Originals. I think that would be
pretty good. How about you? And please be sure to like us on the page
while you`re there.
HAYES: We`re back.
And joining me now, Kevin Gover, member of the Pawnee Nation of
Oklahoma, and director of the Smithsonian Institution`s National Museum of
the American Indian.
And, Kevin, I would like to get your response to the announcement by
Dan Snyder of this new foundation today. What do you make of it?
KEVIN GOVER, DIRECTOR, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE
AMERICAN INDIAN: Well, we knew it was coming.
I had heard from friends that the team was trolling around Indian
country looking for somebody somewhere who was willing to accept some
goodies from the team. And so it came as no surprise.
HAYES: You don`t sound particularly impressed.
GOVER: Well, let me say a couple of things.
First of all, no one is against people providing assistance to
poverty-stricken Native communities. So, I`m glad that Mr. Snyder would do
something like that.
On the other hand, it wasn`t lost on us that, in order to receive
those benefits, you had to dress up in team gear, be photographed and then
used in their publicity. So it`s -- it`s a mixed bag.
HAYES: There are people who point to other names, the Braves, the
Seminoles, the Fighting Illini, and the Indians, and say, well, we have all
these other names, a name is a name, and, ultimately, it gets detached from
its initial meaning as it gets used in a different context.
What is -- is there a particular kind of venom in this name
GOVER: Well, all Native mascots perpetuate stereotypes of Native
people, and so we oppose those.
But this is a particularly vicious word. It`s one that was understood
throughout the 20th century, as someone was pointing out earlier, as a
racial insult. It`s still a racial insult. It`s a word nobody in polite
company would use directed toward an actual Native person.
And so it`s not OK to use it in this context, because it encourages
the kind of racist behavior that you see from fans of the team, people
dressing up like Indians, they believe. And, really, they`re dressing up
in ways that we find demeaning and insulting.
So, the name -- the name necessarily is demeaning and promotes
stereotyping and racism against Native people.
HAYES: Are you encouraged by what, it appears to me, as someone who`s
been observing this, as a kind of groundswell over the last, I would say,
12 to 18 months, in which this has really become a real issue? It`s an
issue for the style guides of newspapers. It`s something that is talked
about in the sports media. It is very present.
The kind of obvious offensiveness of this is something that is very
hard to ignore. Do you think it`s building toward some kind of tipping
GOVER: You know, I wrote my first letter to "The Washington Post"
about this in 1973, when I was 18 years old, because it was so clear to me
even as a young man that this was a racial insult, and I could not
understand why it was allowed to be perpetuated.
Yes, I mean, it`s exciting that the issue is getting so much
attention. We appreciate the attention that you have devoted to it
Can we account for it? Maybe we have just reached a tipping point,
and finally people are beginning to focus. Certainly, young people and
people in general are becoming more aware of the consequences of
stereotyping and the use of race language directed at any number of groups.
And it`s no surprise to me that we would be one of the last to be noticed,
because we are so few.
GOVER: If you think about it, how often do you meet a Native
American? And most people have that experience.
Once they do, once they see that Indian people are real people, just
like everybody else, those sorts of stereotypes become less attractive to
HAYES: And, in some ways, that`s what makes the stereotype of this
very famous team all the more harmful in that respect.
Kevin Gover from the Smithsonian Institution, thank you so much for
your time tonight. Really enjoyed it.
GOVER: You`re so welcome.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
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