Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 9, 2014
Guest: Navell Gordon, Anthony Newby, Bryan Stevenson, Ed Pawlowski, Aaron
Beelner, Thomas Christensen, Lisa Cook, Avik Roy, Roben Farzad
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, why is
China scrubbing its air?
Plus, the man at the center of pointer gate.
And the big win from Tuesday that was lost in all the fun.
But first, indicators are up, but what still matters most is what`s in your
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
We have a lot to get to this morning. But we begin with the breaking news
overnight. Two Americans released from North Korea are back on U.S. soil
this morning. A plane carries Matthew Todd Miller arrived at Kenneth Bae
arrived at a U.S. military base near (INAUDIBLE) Washington shortly after
midnight eastern time.
The 25-year-old Miller was greeted by his parents. He has been in North
Korea for seven months. He was accused of tearing up his visa and unruly
Kenneth Bae was held in North Korea for two years on charges of using a
Christian evangelical organization to preach against the North Korean
This morning, they thanked American and North Korean officials for making
his home coming possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH BAE, FREED IN NORTH KOREA: I also want to thank President Obama
and all of the people in the state department working tirelessly hard to
get me released as well. And also, I would like to thank the DPRK North
Korean government as well for allowing me to go home, and come home and be
united with our family and with people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Bae and Miller were accompanied by the director of national
intelligence James Clapper who secretly flew to North Korea to secure their
release. Saturday, President Obama reacted to the news that the Americans
were coming home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I think it is a
wonderful day for them and their families and obviously. They`re doing a
great job on what was obviously a challenging mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s still unclear exactly what prompted North Korea to
release the two Americans. But a senior official with the Obama
administration insists the goal of Clapper visit was to bring the Americans
home, not to pursue any other diplomatic openings with North Korea. We
will continue to follow any developments in the story.
But right now we want to turn to a key issue here at home. All right,
Nerdland, it`s time for a pop quiz. Just one question. How is the
American economy doing? Remember, support your answers with evidence.
OK, OK, I`m giving you a break on this one because the answer to this
question is not as clear cut as say what is two plus two? Or who was the
fifth president of the United States? Yes, James Monroe. Or who is the
most talented performer of our age. I know, I know.
Ok. I get it. There may be more than one right answer to that last one.
But here in Nerdland, there is only one. But it is, of course, like a tiny
bit subjective, very much in the same way like our very first question, how
is the American economy doing?
Now typically, economist, bureaucrats and prognosticators of various
stripes answer this question using aggregate macroeconomic measures, things
like the Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
How big is it? Bigger is better. How fast is it growing? Fast but not
too fast as what you are striving for. How much stuff are we making? More
is good. How much are we selling? It should always be more than we`re
The good old GDP is a very powerful measure. Take it from the bureau of
economic analysis primer on the GDP. You see GDP is one of the most
comprehensive and closely watch economic statistics. It is used by the
White House and Congress to prepare the federal budget by the federal
reserve to formula monetary policy by Wall Street as an indicator of
economic activity by the business community to prepare forecasts of
economic performance that provide the basis for production, investment, and
And right now, our GDP is looking pretty darn good. It`s big. It`s fast.
It`s exceeding expectations. Now, the GDP is not the only measure of
economic health and vitality we`re seeing these days. This week the labor
department announced that applications for new unemployment benefit dropped
by 10,000 bringing the four-week average to slowest in 14 years.
The unemployment rate continues to drop. This Friday`s jobs report show,
the unemployment rate dipping to 5.8 percent. The country added 214,000
new jobs in October making it the ninth straight month with more than
200,000 jobs added, the longest streak since 1994.
In fact, October was the 49th straight month of job gains. In the stock
market, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average hit record highs
this week. Consumer confidence is its highest since October 2007.
So how is the economy doing? Well, by these issues it is somewhere between
damn good and just fine, thank you. Not bad for a country that faced an
existential economic crisis just a few short years ago.
But before all of you economic optimists start demanding a gold star from
professor MHP, let`s see if there are other answers to the question.
Because here is actually the only place most people look when they are
asked if the economy is good or bad.
And from the perspective of American wallets, the story is not so rosy.
Yes, there are more jobs, but wages remain stagnant. Over the past year,
wages have only risen two percent, just slightly faster than inflation.
The sectors with the lowest wages like retail and hospitality have had some
of the biggest job growth over the past four years. The unemployment rate
dropped in October, but only among white workers. The higher unemployment
rates for African-Americans at 10.9 percent and Latinos at 6.8 percent
remained about the same.
People are not giving up looking for work at high rates, but labor
participation rate has not particularly grown either, just over 60 percent
for the past several months. Consumer confidence went up last month, but
demand for American made goods dropped off hard.
For most people, all of the graphs, charts, and macroeconomic indicators in
the world are little comfort if the checkbook does not balance at the end
of the month, and if the prospects of saving to buy a house or sending kids
to college or open a business seem pretty dim.
Maybe that`s why last week`s exit polls only one percent of the voters said
the economy is excellent and just 28 percent of votes said the economy is
good. And t turns out that knowing that little piece of economic polling
helps explains little bit about why Republicans won on Tuesday night.
Because while nearly three quarters of people who said the economy is good
voted for democratic candidates, 64 percent of voters who said the economy
is either poor or not so good voted for Republicans. And if most people
think the economy is bad and most of the people who think the economy is
bad, vote for the other guy, well it just doesn`t matter how big your GDP
is, you have to convince voters that you know how to use it to make their
lives better, something the president who self-acknowledged this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This country made real
progress since the crisis of six years ago, but we just got to keep at it
until every American feels the gains of a growing economy weren`t matters
most and that is in their own lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So now it is time to give the pop quiz to my table. Is the
economy good or bad?
Joining me now, host of public radio`s Full Disclosure Roben Farzad, being
mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Ed Pawlowski, associate professor at the
Michigan State University and former member of the President`s Counsel of
Economic Advisors Lisa Cook, and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute
and Forbes opinion editor and Nerdland #favorite, Avik Roy.
It is so nice to have all here.
Roben, I want to start with you. Are the indicators that we use to answer
my pop quiz question, is the economy god or bad, are they the right
indicators? Are they useful for actually understanding the economy?
ROBEN FARZAD, HOST, FULL DISCLOSURE: I don`t subscribe to them. And I
think it is a whole (INAUDIBLE) on Wall Street. When these numbers come
out, we tend to give health size importance to GDP numbers or nonfarm
payroll numbers. Whereas if you were take a real man on the street poll,
overwhelmingly Americans who are employed or feeling underemployed, they
feel like they don`t have clout. It used to be their boss as they can`t
come in and throw their vote (INAUDIBLE) and say retainers. And I think
that the numbers that the federal reserve and the bureau of economic record
keeping in the labor department just doesn`t capture this kind of angst out
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, Lisa, as I said early on, the GDP and these other
macroeconomic indicators from consumer confidence on, those are the things
on which we make both national domestic policy and foreign policy that the
government and private industry uses. If they`re not the right indicators,
then what are we doing?
LISA COOK, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: I think that is
a good point. So what we should do is broaden the statistics that we`re
taking into account, and this is what the fed does. The fed doesn`t just
look at GDP to make monetary policy. And I think it would be ill advised
for anyone to just look at GDP.
For example, we should look at well-being. And I think that, you know,
Great Britain is doing this, France is trying to this, Britton overly does
it, and we could have captured more of what was going to happen in the Arab
Spring if we had looked at the indicators of well-being.
So yes, GDP is doing fine, but there was something very interesting in the
polls this week along with what you just named. Forty-five percent of
Americans thought that the economy was the chief issue and Democrats and
Republicans were not split on that view.
HARRIS-PERRY: So every thought it was the key issue, but the question of
whether or not you thought things were going well or badly helped determine
COOK: That`s right. For these polls, and this is overtime, if you`re out
of power, if your party is not in power, you`re going to say that. So,
that`s not a surprise.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this -- I mean, I guess this was part of what I was
wondering. Because you know, when you take an exit poll it`s one-shot
polling, I don`t know whether it is that Republicans just tend to read the
economy under Democrats as being a less high quality economy and they were
already going to vote for Republicans, right? Or whether or not, you know,
sort of which way the --
AVIK ROY, SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: Yes. So I think one of the
ways to actually to really read the exit polls, it is very interesting is
if you look at it by income. One of the things that this economy in the
last six years is most of the income growth, the vast majority accrued to
the top one percent. Some people say it is about 95 percent. SO it is a
huge number because of the gains in the stock market, real estate, and what
And so, if you think about it that way, if the economic gains are going to
the very wealthy, and if you look at the exit polls by income. So the two-
thirds of the voters who had incomes greater than $50,000 a year,
overwhelmingly voted Republican. The one-third of the electorate that have
incomes below $50,000 a year, overwhelmingly voted democratic.
What does that tell you? Because that is not the median -- the $50,000 is
about the median income in the United States. That means a lot of low
income voters didn`t vote. Now, what that tells me is maybe those voters
said the economy is not working for me, they didn`t vote Republican, they
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So we know there is always a midterm drop off. And it
is hard to tell whether that midterm contraction is about they are not
being kind of the sufficient level of information that occurs when you have
a presidential election, or whether or not that is a kind of protest, you
know, whether or not people are voting with their feet.
I wonder as a mayor, on the ground, like as you`re talking to people, as
they`re gearing up to go to the polls, it is funny to hear that people were
saying the economy was the number one issue. Living in North Carolina is
simply not necessarily what people were saying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
MAYOR ED PAWLOWSKI (D), ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think it is funny
because when you think about it, if that`s the number one issue, tell me
one Democrat or Republican who was a candidate who was talking on it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Who was running on it, you know, right.
PAWLOWSKI: They were talking about Ebola, they were talking about
Obamacare, no one mentioned the economy in any way, shape, or form. And
yet, you know, if -- so this is the number one issue that is driving people
at the polls, we have to really sit back and say, why isn`t anyone talking
about this issue? I don`t think it had anything to do with the economy
whatsoever. I think it was just all numbers and math.
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you mean by numbers and math?
PAWLOWSKI: Well, I think if you look at, you know, if you look at 2008,
you know, Democrats won seats, overwhelmingly, that they should had not
have one, OK? Whether it was Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, and then,
you know, in 2010, the Republicans won seats that they should not have won
-- Pennsylvania, you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it was vulnerability in particular places.
PAWLOWSKI: I think so. I mean, and those seats were won by just couple of
thousand votes. Some are couple of hundred votes.
Take Alaska, you know, it was a couple thousand votes that Mark Begich won.
He lost by a couple thousand votes in the last election, so it switched
back. And I think in 2016, if Hillary is at the top of the thicket, you
are going to see a mass democratic turnout. And it is going to switch back
In fact, there is more Democratic seats that I think that are in play than
for the positive, for the democrat, than there are for the Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We, over the next month we will determine whether or
not we think if Hillary at the top of the ticket brings people out. But it
is -- it is a question about whether or not this was turnout or whether or
not this was kind of specific voting.
When we get back, though, I want to ask a little bit about that question,
that what`s the matter with Kansas question that has been out there now for
more than a decade. And to ask about why is it that people voted for
minimum wage, but then also, for candidates that don`t support a hike in
the minimum wage? It was an odd of what is the matter with voters kind of
HARRIS-PERRY: This week voters in four states, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska,
and South Dakota approved increases to their state`s minimum wage laws.
The new higher minimum wages will ultimately range from $8.50 to $9.75.
And in Alaska and South Dakota include automatic increases that are tied to
These are some deep red state. Alaska, the governor`s race, still too
close to call, but the choices between the incumbent Republican and a
former Republican running as an independent, I mean, still, Alaska approved
a wage increase with more than two-thirds of the vote.
Arkansas elected Republicans Tom Cotton to the Senate by a 17-point margin
and at the same time voted to raise the minimum wage by a 30-point margin.
Nebraska, elected Republican to the U.S. Senate and the governor`s office
in landslides, proved the wage increase by nearly 20 points.
And South Dakota reelected its Republican governor with more than 70
percent of the vote and voted to increase the minimum wage by a ten point
So let me first ask the -- I want to start with the economic question and
then I will get to the political one. Every time I talk about the minimum
wage on the show, the first thing that happens is our on conservative at
the table does what Ron Christie did yesterday. So I just want to listen
for a second to our friend, Ron Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If we pass a national minimum wage
going to $10.10, it is going to kill 500,000 jobs. And I don`t think that
the constituents around this country want this something.
And you know the people who actually benefit from that minimum wage. Vast
majority of the people in minimum wage is between 16 and 24.
So for Democrats to say that you are going to have a minimum wage and a
family wage, when a majority of the people are teenagers on this, I think
it is a false argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And of course you know what happens next is everyone else at
the table is like no!
So just, let`s just feel -- so we can bring it down in a second. And I
just -- I really want to know if someone can help me to truly understand
what we think the economic effects would be, the macro economic effects, of
raising the minimum wage.
Lisa, we will start with you.
COOK: OK. So first, I would like to start with the assumptions.
Teenagers are not the majority of people who are in low wage jobs. They`re
34-years-old. That`s the median age. They have a college education. Many
of them do. Twenty five percent -- I`m sorry, 55 percent of them are the
breadwinners in the family, 56 percent of them are women. This is not sort
of, you know, serving in a tourist economy or something, these are not
teenagers. So the assumptions that we`re doing something that will kill
sort of teenage job is fallacious. That is an empirical question. We need
to stop thinking in that van.
So the second thing is the evidence we have is consistent with the minimum
wage adding jobs, not increasing wages. We don`t have strong evidence in
that regard. Now, someone argue, conservatives would argue -- are often
argue with that the EITC is a better thing to do. That it would have less
HARRIS-PERRY: That is Earned Income Tax Credit.
COOK: It is the Earned Income Tax Credit, yes. The thing is I agree with
my colleague David Hamermesh (ph), let`s do something. And I think that is
what most American think. Sixty to 70 percent and most Americans polls of
Americans think that we should raise the minimum wage.
So, if that is the case, these numbers are not surprising. The numbers
that were just showed are not surprising. So I am not surprised. We did
the same thing in Michigan in May. The minimum wage was raised from $7.40
to $8.15. And this was in response to the raise of wage campaign.
Now, this is a majority Republican legislature. And this was just a head
off what might happen in the future, but everybody senses this. Many
Americans went to service jobs during the recession. These are five out of
six, yes, in these low wage jobs, five out of six, of the fastest growing
jobs are in these sectors.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Avik, let me in on this.
ROY: Yes. So the congressional budget office, when they did that report
on a minimum wage last summer, so I think did a great job of summarizing
the economic literature on this point. The main critique they made was
they talked about the job numbers. They also talked about the fact that
the minimum wage, the hike is poorly targeted. It doesn`t actually
directly affects low income people who are in low wage jobs and effects
people who are in low wage jobs generally. That`s why the Earned Income
Tax Credit is better. It is more targeted toward low income individuals
who then will get more income through the earned income tax credit.
You know, I think the thing that we lose focus on when we talk about just
mandating higher wage is, where are the jobs? How do we restore the
manufacturing jobs in the blue collar job that are going away in this
country? And that`s a tougher question. So it`s easier to say minimum
wage, minimum wage. But that is the things is actually drives it. So if
you look at South Dakota, for example, where the energy boom is driving a
lot of growth in blue color jobs, the average wage there is very high, it
is $20 an hour, right? So the more we can do to generate those kinds of
jobs the more we are going to have in wage growth.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I guess, I have two thoughts around that. One, Roben,
it feels to me as though manufacturing jobs are not inherently higher wage.
There was a labor union movement. And it is because those are unionized
jobs that tend to drive wages higher. It is actually as organized efforts
to get higher wages. It is not because, you know, those kinds of
manufacturers just pay more.
But also, I worry about an economic nostalgia about bringing back an
economy that may be gone. Like -- and instead when I think about, if we`re
in an economy that is two-tiered around kind of informational education
drive high wage job and minimum wage service jobs, then how do we raise
that floor rather than -- so I guess this is part of what I`m wondering, I
mean, do you see that as just nostalgia or is it realistic to talk about
bringing back an American manufacturing?
FARZAD: There is kind of a Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp led
nostalgia for the old manufacturing jobs or if you go see the movie
(INAUDIBLE) from 1986 and the Japanese were taking our jobs ever since. I
do subscribe to the idea that a lot of these jobs are just going to go
away. They are going to be off shored while overseas partners kind of up
their games and their wages were lower.
Having said that in addition to the shale oil boom, there is this elements
of creative destruction, the Midwest, the Rumsfeld (ph) was so cored out in
the wake of the great recession that you have investors coming in now and
saying, you know, wages have been brought down. Things being offered to us
by municipalities and by governors are so attractive that we will in fact
expand here in the United States. You look at Subaru of Indiana. You know
those cars can be manufacture abroad. There is a huge line for people who
want to get job that the Subaru of Indiana factory. Or in Detroit, we talk
about Shinola (ph) which is making luxury watches. There is a movement of
put because wages in the United States and the economic situation has been
so depressed for the better --.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I`m just thinking in Allentown, you`re not opening a new
factory, you`re opening a new Marriott which is great, right? it is
fantastic to have a new Marriott. But those are different kinds of jobs.
PAWLOWSKI: They are. But you know, we have a billion dollars worth of new
development going on. We`re actually the fastest growing city in the
state. We have all of this economic energy because of the special tax zone
that we put it to actually drive this development. Now --
HARRIS-PERRY: So you lowered taxes on businesses?
PAWLOWSKI: No, no, no. Actually, it`s sort of like a taxing in the
financing district but utilizing state taxes. So, it is like a tea bag
(ph) steroids, we call it. But what it has done, it has drawn all of this
economic energy to the city.
Now, we`re building a million square feet of office space, a new arena, all
of the steel for this is being made in Pennsylvania, OK, 36,000 cubic yards
of concrete have gone in so far. Instead of 120 football fields on
concrete, that is all in a surrounding county. So, it is having this
economic impact that is really triculating (ph) through the whole economy
HARRIS-PERRY: I will come back to you on exactly that question of steel
because I haven`t thought about that. If you put it in numeric (ph), it is
not just the service jobs (INAUDIBLE) within Marriott. It is also the
steel to build that soccer.
So when we come back, I want to talk about infrastructure.
But also later in the day, we`re going to talk about pointer gate. We`re
also going to talk about the president`s trip to China and Erin Dilner (ph)
of the little thin man.
Up next, can Congress build anything?
HARRIS-PERRY: In his Wednesday`s postmortem on the midterm election,
President Obama sought to nap out some common grounds with Congressional
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all agree on the need to
create more jobs that pay well. Traditionally, both parties have been for
creating jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, bridges, ports,
water wastes. I think we can hone in on a way to pay for it through tax
reform that closes loopholes and makes it more attractive for companies to
create jobs here in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He is just a universal optimist that infrastructure will
somehow be de-bipartisan issue. So in the work that you`re doing around
economic development and all that, is that a bipartisan effort? Is that a
pace people can find common ground?
PAWLOWSKI: Absolutely. I mean, we got those bills passes in the state
house because of bipartisan effort. So I think he is on to something here.
I think infrastructure is that issue that everybody realizes has to be
fixed, right? Our bridges are crumbling our roads are falling apart. The
trust fund -- the highway trust fund bill, they can`t seem to figure out
how to fund it. But yet, it`s critical because it drives all these other
economic synergy throughout the economy whether it is steel, whether it is
cement, whether it is, you know, the labor force created to build this
infrastructure. It creates such an economic engine that it will really
have a tremendous riffle effect that I think across the entire economic
footprint of the United States if they can actually come together and
figure it out.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, Bobby Jindal rejected federal funds for light rail
in Louisiana. Chris Christie rejected infrastructure money, right? I
mean, it actually did become politicized. Do we have any sense of that now
there would be room to do this?
COOK: So in Michigan, our Republican governor has been advocating the
bridge to Canada. But Canada is going to pay for it because we won`t. But
that is. That is another story.
But I think that at some point his argument is going to win and that is
when economic activity picks up, we have to be ready. Sixty-five percent
of our roads are not functioning. They are in inadequate shape. A quarter
of our bridges, 45 percent of people don`t have -- Americans don`t have
access to transit. Something has got to change.
Nike spends $4 million a week to make sure that it accounts for seven to 14
days of inventory because of shipping delays. This is a real problem for
businesses. And it is not as though it is going to go away. So when it
picks up, we`re talking about how mixed and nuanced the economy is. But
when it does take off, it is not going to able to take off.
FARZAD: Do you think the Obama administration regrets that at the
beginning of, you know, it is first time of the days, they didn`t ask for
maybe twice or three times the stimulus package that it puts together?
Because that is what we are hearing about sublet ready, that`s what Rahm
Emanuel exhorted the world not to waste a good crisis. And maybe five-and-
a-half years on, they think that they didn`t ask for enough --
HARRIS-PERRY: There was a little bit of it, right? But part of the
problem is it went through the states and it didn`t get branded as this is
the Obama administration fixing your road, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could have asked for something like a new deal.
ROY: You know, but President Obama famously said, you know, there were lot
less shovel ready projects than I thought. So there was this hole, this
relict about shale already. But then they threw the money at it and there
were actually weren`t because it takes somebody like Keystone XL. So
Keystone XL was a project that actually there was a lot of bipartisan
support for but it`s has been held up by this Congress. And the next
Congress I bet you see Republicans pass --
HARRIS-PERRY: This is an interesting question because the issue of
infrastructure investment is not ideology free in that more roads, bridges,
and XL pipelines rile up the left and saying no, no, no. What you need to
so is invest in infrastructure that is master -- you say I just want a
monorail, I just want to get from Richmond to D.C. without taking six
hours, right, going to Norfolk first, that I a lefty, you know, right? But
then Governor Jindal didn`t take it.
FARZAD: Or just something everybody can get behind.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it`s not anymore because they got rid of earmarks,
right? Isn`t that how Congress was supposed to work? Everybody got their
ROY: Part of the issue with the rail projects is that the Christie
critique and the Jindal critique has been that they have been a lot of cost
overruns. If you look at California, when they tried to have this high
speed rail line, it has been a bit of a mess, this project. There has been
massive, massive House overruns. They are not going to have a high speed
rail and --
FARZAD: -- interstate highway system didn`t have cost overruns?
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to keep fighting about bridges and trains and
cars and all of that good stuff. Mayor Pawlowski is going to be back in
the next hour. The rest of my panel is sticking around.
Still to come this morning, the controversial story of the week that had
the Internet (INAUDIBLE), pointer gate and the photo that launched 1,000
HARRIS-PERRY: In the wee hours of the morning, President Obama de parted
Andrews Air Force Base in route to China where he and other leaders from
around the world are gathering in Beijing for the 2014 APEC Summit, a
global forum in economic development in the Asia-Pacific region.
So this event will shine a bright spotlight on China, a bright light that
might have trouble penetrating the gray clouds of smog that hang over its
capital city. In recent years, scientists, journalists, activists and
commercial interests have been sounding alarms about the negative impact of
China`s air pollution and urging the government to take action to evade it.
With President Obama and other world leaders winning their way to China
this morning, the government decided to scrub the air. Scrub the air, you
say. Just how does that work? Well, we`ll tell you how China is trying to
make sure APEC leaders will see nothing but blue skies, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Any good host knows that when you`re expecting company, the
proper thing to do is to clean the house in advance of your guest`s
arrival, you know, polish the furniture, run over the vacuum over the rug.
Shake the desk devil to curtains.
But China`s preparation for the rival of oil leaders in Beijing to the APEC
Summit has been less like a little bit of tightening up and more like doing
a last minute renovation.
Last month, the Chinese government announced that plan to give Beijing a
temporary makeover to transform the famously crowded in Fallujah city into
As the "New York Times" reports, an aggressive campaign to clear the air in
and around Beijing has shut down factories, limited road traffic ban, burnt
offerings to honor diseased love ones, stop newlyweds from sending of a
fire crackers during wedding celebrations, in mix English, overly smoky
incense at the Buda`s temple.
The government has also try to send Beijing`s population of 21 million
people by declaring a six-day vacation for public officials during APEC.
China`s attempt to change the atmosphere`s environment comes as this year`s
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC meeting finds China and the U.S.
in very different economic environments than when these two nations met in
You see China`s economy has just came off one of their slowest quarters of
growth in five years. But the likelihood of the continued downturn in the
near future and in a world in which the economic destinies of the two
countries are intertwined, the sunny economic outlook for the U.S. cannot
escape this red of China`s cloudy forecast.
Joining the table now is Thomas Christensen who is professor at Princeton
University and co-director of the China and the world program and the
former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and pacific
affairs and author of "the China challenge" available for sale next year.
So Tom, let me start with you. How intertwined are these economies? There
seems to be a bit of debate about whether or not China can go down without
taking the U.S. with it.
THOMAS CHRISTENSEN, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I don`t think there
is much of the debate. I think if the Chinese economy does poorly, it is
bad for the United States economy. China is now our third largest export
market, about $120 billion a year in 2013. China is part of an integrated
trans-national production chain that affects U.S. companies and also the
companied of lots of other export markets in this Asia, Japan and South
We wish the Chinese economy well. And it is slowing down, but when the
Chinese economy slows down, if you looked at that headline, 7.3 percent GMP
growth, still pretty fast. Now, it could cloud down quite a bit more and
they`re going through restructuring now and that will be very difficult for
them to restructure their economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: It also feels o me like there is a different set of
questions at stake about the slowdown. In part, because when we`re talking
about a government that can send, you know, a portion of 21 million people
away, they can scrub the air, they can keep, you know, religious and
personal events from happening, then, it`s hard for me to imagine that the
economy is just growing or slowing on its own. It feels to me like there
must be a government policy actively slowing it down, hitting the brakes.
CHRISTENSEN: Well, they`re trying to restructure some of their economic
sectors including the financial sector which is quite difficult to do. And
for the pollution, the pollution is really quite terrible. I mean, they`re
clearing up the air for this one event, so when the summit leaders are in
town, the air will be clean.
But I was there just a couple of weeks ago for the Beijing marathon. And
the small particulate pollution which rightly what makes you sick, it makes
the northern Chinese sick, was about I would say 400, it was the reading.
And the World Health Organization says 25 is the maximum healthy levels.
So it was not quite 20 times the maximum healthy level of small particular
pollution on the day of the marathon.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, I have heard that there is a bit of, well you,
U.S., when you were over going to your great economic expansion at a turn
of the 20th century, you are big horrifying polluters and who are you to
tell us, we can`t now climb that economic ladder just as you did which will
ROY: It does a big challenge, I mean, both China and India have been
opponents of a lot of global and environmental agreements for just that
reason. That`s one of the challengers, right? They say well, you have
already done it, we want to do it too. And you know, I mean, I think the -
- on issue of trade and economic growth, as Tom said, the economic growth
in China and Asia generally is still pretty, pretty strong. Yes, there has
been a lot of wage growth. And I think that is slowing a lot of their
economic advantage over the U.S., but still there is going to be, for
example, a transpacific partnership which is one of these big Asia traders
for the U.S. in the next Congress before it take up. That is a possibly
(INAUDIBLE) bipartisanship cooperation that can help reverse some of the
slide in terms of just organic economic growth.
FARZAD: When you talk about the peculiar relationship between these
economies, the number one, the economy in the world and the number two,
looking to be the number one. I call them like in economic academic terms,
frenemies with benefits. They don`t want to say I love you, but they need
each other. They want each other. They know that China needs to keep
sending its exports. It is where is here to keep the countryside happy and
the United States needs Walmart to keep selling $18 DVD players.
HARRIS-PERRY: But there is a soother challenging, right? If they are
frenemies with benefits, there is somebody definitely trying to creep up,
not even on the down low that is Russia, right? And so, you have -- and
it`s not even clear to me that this is really exclusively about Russia and
economic interests, but also about Russia just once again saying, you know
what, U.S., we are still here and particularly Putin saying it to President
FARZAD: Russia can`t do for China anything like the United States --
HARRIS-PERRY: If terms of pure market?
FARZAD: Let`s talk a little bit of the slowdown that I actually think it
is somewhat beneficial on the margin for China to slow down to the extent
that they consume less crude oil, to the extent that they consume less
beef. Commodity prices go down.
We have not seen in the past 15 years of mediocre Chinese economic growth a
hard landing of any sort for China. And actually, you know, we do have a
significant sum of exports that goes to them, but they also affect world
prices and world inflation and prestige and commodity prices to --.
COOK: What they really have to worry about, though, is what we worry about
in the U.S. and what Europe is worrying about here. And that is income
inequality. I mean, this is really ramming a big, big hole between the
classes in China. And there has been this uplift from poverty over 30
years based on economic growth that is been nine percent generally most
recently. And I think this is one of the biggest thing they have to worry
So they have to worry about pollution, sure. They have to worry about
slower economic growth. Xi Jing Ping says it won`t be below seven percent.
So I think that the bigger thing they have to worry about is social unrest.
It is killing
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite the authoritarian level of government -- because I
mean, social unrest in a free -- relatively free Democratic system like
ours is really quite a different thing than social unrest in the context of
the authoritarian state.
COOK: Right, it is. It is. But what is happening in Hong Kong? I mean,
I didn`t know this is it. You know, they have been flap dance. They don`t
COOK: No, they have umbrellas. Yes, exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us, we`ll stay on this topic. President Obama
this week was called in cipid (ph). We`ll talk about the politics next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Another rule of a polite host is don`t talk smack about your
guests before they arrive for the party, especially not where they can hear
you. China, most certainly, broke that one this week when advance -- in
advance of President Obama`s visit to the country. China`s global Times
newspaper wrote, Obama always utters yes we can which led to the high
expectations that people have for him, but he has done and sip a job
operating nearly nothing to this supporters. U.S. society has grown tired
of his bernality (ph).
Talk about kicking a man when he is down. President Obama`s return to the
country comes on the heels of a midterm election when his party has been
disempowered in the Congress. And it is a sharp contrast to his last visit
in 2009 when a still new and politically powerful President Obama dazzled
Chinese audiences during his visits.
So, you know, I feel interested in the way which China has been kind of a
character for president Obama at various points. He uses it as a way of
saying, you know, China is doing good things for education that we ought to
be doing. Our infrastructures are kind of competitive. You know, to get
Americans global angst up. So that they will want to do certain sort kind
But the reality is, here than we comes with the stronger economy, but less
political strenuous before he was there with more political trainers less
economic power, how did that end up playing in his conversations with.
COOK: Well, you know, we have to put these comments in context. China --
the Chinese government is so used to wanting the economy. I don`t think
they understand the present`s relationship with the economy. So, you know,
he is not going as a weakened person. And you know, when their GDP per
person gets up to the level of ours, like tripling, then, I think there is
a real conversation about it to be had.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the president still goes with the bigger GDP, take that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I do wonder about -- I mean, this has been part of the
president`s angst in some of his conversations with Putin and with other
world leaders is the sense of open fighting that is the American political
system can leave our presidents as world leaders somewhat weakened.
CHRISTENSEN: Yes. I think unfortunately, just a few weeks ago before the
midterm election, I got the impression that many in China saw President
Obama as weak at home and weak in foreign policy s we. And there was
puzzlement that he is on the second that he is in his second term. And
usually, you expect a stronger foreign policy posture in the second term
than in the first.
But I think the relationship in China understands our political system.
They understand that he is still the head of the executive branch. He is
still the commander-in-chief and he is going to be going over there to
negotiates some more things.
And on in some way, the midterm elections will work against him and in some
they might actually work against him and in some ways they might actually
work for him. On issues like climate change, when they discuss climate
change with China and other partners in the region, the leverage is
obviously lost because it`s not really credible in every case that he will
be able to carry through on some of the promises that he might be able to
But on something like the bilateral investment treaty with China or the
transpacific partnership which is a free trade discussion with 12 countries
including the United States, he might actually have a stronger hand with
the Republican Congress because there is traditionally more free trade than
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean, Dems have actually asked the president to
hold off until the midterms and so this is the one place, right, where
there maybe -- I want to listen just for a moment to President Obama kind
of flexing a little bit back in the state of the union about the power of
the U.S. economy compared to China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the first time in over
a decade business leaders around the world declared that China is no longer
the world`s number one place to invest, America is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`m wondering like in a moment like that, if that is part
of, you know, on the question of trade, on the question of now I have a
Republican Congress which may appear to be a political weakness, but in the
context of the dream actually opened up space.
ROY: Yes. I think when it comes towards U.S. policy towards Asia and
China, he actually has more leverage now on most important issues because
particularly of trade policy. That is an area where there is going to be a
lot more action I the next hours. That may be actually the first priority
in terms of bipartisan cooperation.
I just came back from Asia couple of weeks ago and I can tell you that
maturation, that energy, that growth in the Asian economy, that opportunity
to the U.S. is still very large. But they are going to grow faster than we
are. And that is going to be true for a number of years. And so, whatever
HARRIS-PERRY: There is a huge gap, but their rate of change is faster.
ROY: Yes. So I mean, the Chinese GDP in total is -- the total GDP is
going to be probably higher than the United States t least probably in the
next couple of years.
FARZAD: When I was young I would watch WWF. And was a great punch in kind
of cold war, proxy war going on like (INAUDIBLE) versus Hulk Hogan. And I
was like, of course Natasha (ph), we shall destroy capitslista in that
sort. And I would like some of that. I like -- I would like Mr. Obama
even in his weakened face to kind of go over and talk some smack, right?
We`re neck and neck. Number one versus number two. We need to browbeat
them able global warming. They need to be more responsible with respect to
North Korea. Internal politics are internal politics, but go over and kind
of volley the serve.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, I presume that is why there was a 1:00 a.m.
trip panned I the first place. It`s not like the president didn`t know
that the midterms would be rough, right? And so, you know, I too might get
on a plane and go away and be the global leader rather than --
FARZAD: You could show up in Beijing in a gas mask. I mean, look at that
what do --
HARRIS-PERRY: That would be something, then they might mention Ferguson
and our gas mask. (INAUDIBLE).
Thank you to who Roben Farzad and the WWF you know, and now you don`t skip
that. And to Tom Christensen, also to Lisa Cook and sir Avik Roy. Thank
you all for being here.
Coming up, some of you have been obsessed with pointer gate for the past 48
hours. Some of you have no idea what I am talking about when I say winner
gate. The man in the middle of it all joins me to explain and that is
What happens when did this? Well, there are more that top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": Welcome back,
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we begin this hour with the breaking news
from overnight. The last two Americans held by North Korea are back on
U.S. soil this morning. A plane carrying Matthew Todd Miller and Kenneth
Bae arrived at a U.S. military base near Tacoma, Washington shortly after
midnight Eastern Time. The 25-year-old Miller had been in North Korea
seven months and was accused of tearing up his visa and unruly behavior.
Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary had been held in North Korea for
two years and had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified
hostile acts. This morning they thank the U.S. government and his
supporters for making his homecoming possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH BAE, AMERICAN FREED IN NORTH KOREA: I just want to say thank you
all for supporting me, lifting me up, and not forgetting me. At the same
time that I was not forgetting the people of North Korea. And thank you
for supporting my family as well. It has been a tremendously difficult
time for my family, and there are so many people that have been supporting
them to stand strong during this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Bae and Miller were accompanied by the director of National
Intelligence James Clapper who secretly flew to North Korea to secure their
release. He is the highest ranking American to visit the isolated
communist country in more than a decade. Stay with MSNBC for more on this
story throughout the day.
Right now, we turn to this story that has captivated social media over the
past 48 hours. Turn out. Turn out. Turn out. Okay, listen, prior to
last two of days election, many of us in the national media, emphasize that
turnout would likely decide the outcome of the midterms.
From right here in my distant New York City studio, I urge everyone to get
out and vote. But while some of us were just analyzing and emphasizing.
Community organizers were on the ground on their neighborhoods canvassing
to encouraged people to get out and vote. The organizers that you just saw
there are part of an effort called hashtag Free The Vote in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. Now, it was coordinated by a nonprofit group called
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change or NOC. One of the volunteers, the
woman you see here in a purple hoody sweatshirt is Minneapolis Mayor Betsy
Hodges. And right here, she is posing for a photo with another volunteer
named Navell Gordon.
I want to stop for a moment because this moment that seemed like kind an
insignificant pause in a busy day is about to become quite significant.
When you look at the picture, what do you see? Do you noticed that both
Mayor Hodges and Mr. Gordon are pointing at each other? Because that fact
has become a source of actual controversy in Minneapolis, thanks to this
Thursday report by Jay Kolls at the city`s ABC affiliate KSTP alleging that
Mayor Hodges was caught, quote, "posing with a convicted felon while
flashing a known gang sign." He added the station was alerted to the photo
by law enforcement after they discovered the photo on Gordon`s Facebook
page while doing investigative work. Report goes on to add that Gordon is,
quote, "a twice convicted felon for drug selling and possession and illegal
possession of a firearm. And is currently sentenced to five years at the
St. Cloud Correctional Facility with the prison term, stayed for three
years while he is under supervised probation until 2016." Here is a
portion of that report as it aired last week in which a retired Minneapolis
police officer is interviewed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: She is legitimatizing these people that are killing our
children in Minneapolis and I just don`t get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Responding to criticism of the report, KSTP issued this
statement on Friday morning. Quote, "Law enforcement sources alerted KSTP
TV to a photo they believe could jeopardize public safety and put their
officers at risk. Especially given the recent increase in gang violence.
Multiple sources from several law enforcement agencies told five eyewitness
news that photo had the potential for undermining the work there, doing on
the streets, five eyewitness news blur the individual states did not name
the group he was working for. Because police called into question. Only
the judgment of Mayor Betsy Hodges."
Now, the station also ran a follow up report that same day on their website
quoting that same retired Minneapolis police officer you saw in that news
clip, Michael Quinn, saying that the mayor`s gesture was a, quote, "known
gang sign of one of the most violent gangs in Minneapolis and they will use
this to their advantage." And that the presence of the photo on Gordon`s
Facebook page could provoke crime from another gang in retaliation for the
proceed disrespect. Gordon does not deny his record. He made note of it
in a NOC voter composing video posted shortly after KSTP aired their story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAVELL GORDON, NEIGHBORHOODS FOR ORGANIZING CHANGE: I made some mistakes
in life. I can`t vote, I`m not ashamed to say that but I`m working on
fixing that right now. So I can be able to vote for my next president of
the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Gordon, that said. Gordon was most recently
arrested and charged with trespassing in September outside of a local
grocery store as he was collecting signatures for a petition to restore
felons voting rights. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. After an
employee reportedly ask Gordon to leave, the 22-year-old had a brief
exchange with a Minneapolis police officer who then tackled and handcuffed
him. According to the newspaper`s report, several witnesses protested
Gordon`s treatment, the officer reportedly threatened to shoot them if they
persisted. That action provoked a march lead by NOC on the grocery store.
You can see Gordon here in the Miami hat as protestor demands were being
delivered to the store. And as for other person in that photo, Mayor
Hodges, well Mayor Hodges was elected last year on a platform of addressing
inequality, environment and education. And one month ago, she took a
strong position on law enforcement and community relations on the same day
the U.S. Justice Department review concluded the city`s police department
must be as Star Tribune put it, far more aggressive in rooting out bad
She wrote this in an open letter to the community. Quote, "Some officers
abuse the trust that is afforded to them and take advantage of their roles
to do harm rather than prevent it. And those officers behavior disrupts
community trust for all officers in the community." Mayor Hodges sent a
statement to KSTP which the station included in this initial report. It
read in full, quote, "My job as mayor is to be as accessible as possible to
the residents of Minneapolis and help build relationships and trust in
every community in our city. I constantly meet people at organizations who
are working to make our communities stronger including last weekend. When
other community leaders and I joined members of Neighborhoods Organizing
for Change to increase voter participation in North Minneapolis. It was a
diverse group including people who had made mistakes in their past. The
more supportive that we can all be of people who are making better choices
now the better off we will all be in the future."
Joining me now from Minneapolis to discuss this are, Anthony Newby from
NOC, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. And Navell Gordon, the man who
appeared in the photo with Mayor Hodges. It`s nice to have you both here.
ANTHONY NEWBY, NEIGHBORHOODS ORGANIZING FOR CHANGE: Good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Navell, I want to ask. Look, we have seen the video, we`ve
seen the picture, but can you describe in your own words what you were
doing in the moment when you took the picture with the mayor.
GORDON: I was blessed to be in the mayor`s presence, I was pointing at the
mayor. I was offered to take her out and canvas to show her how
Neighborhoods Organized for Change do work.
HARRIS-PERRY: Had you ever met the mayor before that moment?
GORDON: I had seen her at a couple of events that we had.
HARRIS-PERRY: She seems like a lovely person, I met her myself, I was in
Minneapolis last month. I met her and her husband at an event which I
spoke. But I guess part of what I`m wondering here is, you know, the
language has been that you may be duped her into making this sign that you
knew that it was a gang sign, that you encouraged her to do it and then you
put it up on the Facebook page in a way that could provoke violence. Is
any of that part of what you were either thinking at the time or have been
GORDON: Not at all, it was just a blessing to be with the mayor and I was
putting pictures up and I wanted everybody to see the progress that I`m
making out here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me a little bit about that progress. Actually,
Anthony, if you could talk to me for a moment. You know, there is also
been, I think overwhelmingly the people of Minneapolis had look at this
story and said, this is not seen like a real story, there has been a high
level of critique of the television station, but then there have been some
folks who in response have said, well, why does NOC, you know, hire people
who have felon records?
NEWBY: You know we have been unapologetic. There is lots of folks on our
staff who have made mistakes in the past. Navell is one of them. And it`s
important to note that we knocked on 55,000 doors this year. Had almost
20,000 voter conversations, increased voter turnout in the area where
Navell did work and did the most work. In a state were voter turnout was
down 5.5 percent. So we`re proud not only to the work that we do, but
we`re proud to hire folks with past records, give them a second chance and
Navell is a perfect example of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Actually, hold on a second here, because I want to take a
listen to a video made by NOC and another organizer. And something that
was said in the video, and then I want to come back and ask you a question
about. Let`s take a listen for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I have never seen those officers a day in my life, I`m
not a drug dealer, they just want to stop the black man and get into our
brains man, but we can`t let them do that.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You have to step outside of the box and show our younger
generation and set an example for our kids, man, you got to think about the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we understand that this photo was brought to the
attention of the local police station by officers who claim to have founded
on the Facebook page while doing investigative work. I wonder given that
apparently looking at Mr. Gordon`s Facebook page and what you were saying
there Mr. Gordon about having had this interactions with police, do you
think that you are being targeted in any way?
GORDON: Yes, yes I do. I do I think that, I think that is very
disrespectful. Because the person that put this all out there, I wonder
why he is not being targeted and he has a criminal background as well. Are
they looking at that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, well, so I don`t know that piece of it, we`ll talk a
moment on our commercial break and take a look at that. I do want to ask
you, Anthony, the retired police officer that we heard about has said that
this photo could actually increase tensions, potentially make the world,
Minneapolis in particular more dangerous. Do you think that`s inaccurate
NEWBY: We think it`s absurd. If we look at the photo, it`s two
individuals pointing at each other. What made pointer gate such a national
phenomenon is there are hundreds millions of photos floating around the
internet online and people`s personal cellphones today at this very moment,
of people pointing out each other`s photos. So, that`s the only evidence
that the NPD or this news station have that Navell is a gang member and in
fact, apparently the mayor is involved in gang activity. So, if that`s the
only evidence that they have, we think they need to be held accountable for
that. And there`s a public outcry right now. To pull sponsorship from
this particular news affiliate, to ask the FCC actually to look into the
licensing that they`ve issued to this news station. You cannot recklessly
issue this kind of frankly racist coverage and expect there not to be push
back and we`re really excited that the whole country is talking about this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
GORDON: I would like to thank everybody for supporting us as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Anthony Newby and to Navell Gordon in
Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can beat that we`ll continue to watch this as
will apparently all of social media. But thank you for joining us this
morning. When we come back, I want to bring in some more voices into this
discussion and show everyone at home just how this story blew up online
involving everyone from President Clinton to Snoop.
HARRIS-PERRY: Virtually from the moment, a Minneapolis ABC affiliate broke
this story about an alleged gang sign being flashed in this image of Mayor
Betsy Hodges and community volunteer Navell Gordon, they were canvassing
for voters, people took to social media to criticize it using the hashtag
pointer gate. Some responses were defenses of Gordon like this from
democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who tweeted in part,
quote, "On pointer gate, you are not defined by the worst thing you have
ever done. You should celebrate people making positive life changes. Good
on Mayor Hodges for treating a citizen even one with priors like a
Others went right for the ridicule. Like this tweet. Quote, "Dangerous
bike gang at work at Minneapolis bike coalition. Or from this couple, our
pre-engagement photos showing the love sign, must be gangsters." Also this
from Ken Paul in West Saint Paul, Minnesota. "Snoop Dog flashes gang signs
with a convicted felon. That being host Martha Stewart who was convicted
10 years ago of four felony charges." But the heard of this story that
began about a photo has become about much more. As this from Jim Hammerman
of Minneapolis indicated, quote, "I love that TC Twin Cities twitter turned
pointer gate into a truly important story about cop, mayor, citizen
relations. Nice work."
Joining me now is Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice
Initiative. And author of "Just Mercy." A story of justice and
redemption. And Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
So, I wanted to start with you Bryan because, you know, part of what is
interesting is this mayor has been behaving towards her Police Department
in some ways that I think, reformers would think of it as best practices.
In this open letter that she sent October 8, 2014. She said, we will not
tolerate racist speech and actions on the force. She said, she wanted to
improve citizens and police officers ability to file complaints about
misconduct about reprisal. She stood up for body cameras for officers and
for, quote, "firing officers who do not meet our standards for their
behavior." And within a month, this is what was happening to her in a
local television station.
BRYAN STEVENSON, AUTHOR, "JUST MERCY": Yes. I think there are really two
kinds of police departments and police leadership. There are those that
want to bunker down. They see the community as an enemy that they have to
patrol, that they have to control. And they take this mindset, appear in
anger, they want the media to be participating in a campaign to create fear
and anger. And then there is another kind of Police Department that sees
the role as serving the community. They want to build relationships with
everybody in the community. Not just the affluent and the powerful, but
the poor. The places where there`s a lot of violence. And they want to
create the kind of dynamic where they are there to listen, to protect, and
to serve. And those are the departments that have had success controlling
crime. You know, this is the politics of fear and anger just going crazy.
You know, we have 2.3 million people in prison, six million people on
probation and parole. Sixty eight million people with criminal arrests.
You cannot say, never get near those people.
STEVENSON: Stay away from those people. They are the enemy. When you do
that, you facilitate the kind of tension and violence that leads to the
problems that we have seen in other communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, part of what you`re saying here is an interesting
challenge that I wonder impart about for an elected official, because as
the mayor you come in and you may get to choose a new police chief or you
may retain a police chief that you have, but this issue of sort of a Police
Department culture that you`re talking about, you can`t necessarily as a
mayor just change from the top. So, I wonder as you`re engaging with a
police force through your police chief, what your role as a mayor and
elected official even is.
MAYOR ED PAWLOWSKI (D), ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think it`s to
promote the change. Right? So, again, in any scenario, in any
corporation. In any environment, you have to really lead by example. And
I think that Mayor Hodges was doing that. That is not to say there`s not
going to get resistance.
PAWLOWSKI: You`re always going to have some folks who are going to resist,
and I think you have to be able to work and interact with these folks. One
of the things that I do is I constantly go on and talk to my police
officers. I actually go to all of their musters and tell them about the
things that are happening in the city and trying to get them to buy in, you
know, to what we`re trying to achieve, you know, as an overall organization
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I wonder, also, about there`s two aspects of
accountability that were going on here. One is the mayor beginning to ask
for accountability with a new, you know, there`s a DOJ report, there`s a
new chief, there`s body cameras potentially. But also Gordon and NOC`s
work being about removing felon disenfranchisement so that formally
incarcerated people can vote and hold accountable their elected officials
and that seems to be at least potentially equally anxiety building in this
STEVENSON: I think that`s right. But I just think there is no question
that when people come out of jails or prisons, so when people have made bad
decisions, we want them to act differently. We want them to make different
choices. We want them to engage in the community in a healthy, respectful,
sensible way. And there is nothing more respectful, there`s nothing
healthier and there`s nothing more sensible if you want to engage in the
community and then voting. And encouraging people to actually become
informed and knowledgeable. That is the only way you insulate yourselves,
you protect yourselves from all of the fear and anger, and ignorance that
sometimes demonizes the entire communities. There are so many people
living in the margins of our society who feel like the rest of what`s going
on in the world has no impact on them. That`s a very dangerous situation
for a city. Because when people feel like that, they act like that and we
want to challenge that with precisely the activism of these kinds of
HARRIS-PERRY: Although it did for like 15 seconds maybe one to move to
Minneapolis impart because the overwhelming response on social media of
Minneapolis residents was like are you kidding? Even folks who were, you
know, writing on the comments, and I try not to read the comments on
things, but we`re writing on the comments, I don`t like this mayor. I
don`t agree with him but that`s like, you know, here, my seven month old
daughter flashes the gang of Bill Clinton, flashing to gang sign at Nelson
Mandela. I mean, they`re just kind of kept saying, this is ridiculous.
And that even if we don`t support this mayor, we also don`t support this
kind of, you know, further marginalizing of people of color in our
PAWLOWSKI: Only 15 seconds.
PAWLOWSKI: The whole thing is ridiculous. I mean, it is a crazy scenario
that this local TV station is promoting this issue, and the fact that
they`re doubling down at it now and actually is even crazier. But I think
it speaks even to the broader effect of media, and what`s happening in our
local media markets. That it`s all about sensationalism. It`s all about,
you know, trying to push out a story without really getting the proper, you
know, time to really research that out and have real journalism. And
especially in the local media and the local news stations. You know, they
have to get the story out, they got to get it quick and they got to get it
on before the 4:00 news.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. One of my very smart new team members, new producers
did point out that it is sweeps week. And that some of these decisions may
have been made as much about that as anything else. Bryan is sticking
around, but I want to thank Mayor Ed Pawlowski, both for joining us today
and doing what he always does when it comes to nerd land. Bringing donuts.
Up next on election night this past Tuesday, progressives had a very, very
big win. No, seriously, that was a big progressive win but with all of the
bad news that progressives heard, you might not have heard about this big
good win. So, I`m going to tell you about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you`re a critic of America`s war on drugs, you probably
already heard the news about Tuesday`s election results in these three
places. Voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia were asked
to vote on referenda that would legalize recreational use of marijuana. In
all of those places, voters said, yes to ending pot probation. Big news
but not the biggest news from Tuesday night regarding our nation`s drug and
incarceration policies. Not by a long shot. Because voters in a different
state approved what is arguably the most impactful ballot measure in this
election cycle. California`s Prop 47, a measure aimed at reducing the
state`s prison population changes the penalty for non-serious and
nonviolent property and drug crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Now, that might not sound like a very big deal until you consider this
number. One hundred and seventeen thousand five hundred. That is the
approximate number of people currently in California prison for context
compared that to this number. Seventy four thousand nine hundred and forty
four, that`s the number of people in prison in the entire nation of
Pakistan. The country with almost five times a total population of
California and a somewhat spottier human rights record. In other words,
this initiative is big. Because California`s prison system is big, and the
impact of this change in the law will not just be at the margins. Forty
thousand, that is the number of people who is this law will prevent from
entering the prison system for nonviolent offenses every year.
People like Stacey McGruder (ph), a single mom who received a felony charge
for stealing clothes for her baby. And with the next 19 years, in a
vicious cycle of incarceration and recidivism. Because the law will apply
retroactively to as many as 10,000 people like Stacey who are sitting in a
California prison right now will be eligible for resentencing. And it`s
not just those caught up in the prison system who will be affected by this
law, countless other Californian`s currently living as second class
citizens, will be able to have their felony convictions erased from their
records. Citizens like Richard Martin who overcame a heroin addiction and
earned a master`s degree in English, but who until this Tuesday cannot
pursue his dreams of becoming a high school teacher or adopting a child
with his wife. California`s Prop 47 may not be as cool or as exciting as
smoking weeds with Sarah Palin`s Alaska. But in the battle for drug and
prison reform. It will be initiatives like this one that produce truly
radical outcomes, changing people`s lives by giving them a second chance.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday morning, President Obama announced his nomination
for the next attorney general of the United States. New York Federal
Prosecutor Loretta Lynch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It is pretty hard to be more
qualified for this job than Loretta. Throughout her 30 year career, she
has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer. She
has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting
terrorism, financial fraud, cyber-crime, while vigorously defending civil
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: One of Lynch`s mark key accomplishments was her work
prosecuting The New York police officers accused of arresting and sexually
assaulting a Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997. She is since been
confirmed as a top Brooklyn prosecutor twice by the U.S. Senate, and now,
pending Congressional confirmation, Lynch would become the first African-
American woman to lead the Justice Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I pledge today, to you, and to
the American people that if I have the honor of being confirmed by the
Senate, I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American
people as my first thought. And I will work every day to safe guard our
citizens, our liberty, our rights, and this great nation which has given so
much to me and my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If Lynch is confirmed, depending on the timing, one of the
matters still at play in the Justice Department could be the civil rights
investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Announced in
the wake of Darren Wilson`s killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.
At any point between now and the end of the year, a grand jury could reach
a decision whether or not to indict Wilson. That decision ultimately comes
in. The nation is certain to refocus on some of the key issues Ferguson
brought to light. The amount of force used by law enforcement, the
militarization of sub-urban police departments and racial bias that
pervades our justice system.
Those are the central issues to which public-interest lawyer Bryan
Stevenson has devoted much of his career from his time with the Southern
Prisoners Defense Committee in Atlanta. Could the six arguments he has
brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, Stevenson has worked tirelessly to
help the most vulnerable in our society seek "Just Mercy" under the law.
His work has inspired journalist, activist and social leaders all like.
Including church leader Desmond Tutu has who has called Stevenson America`s
young Nelson Mandela. Stevenson details his lifelong effort to combat
police misconduct, mass incarceration, abuse of the death penalty and other
miscarriages of justice. In his new book, "Just Mercy," a story of justice
Joining me now to discuss "Just Mercy" is the Equal Justice Initiative
Director Bryan Stevenson. So, I am -- I find myself in this weird position
where watching African-American communities be excited about an attorney
general like, you know, you know, the lead prosecutor for the country, and
yet that was both the case with Eric Holder and now potentially with
STEVENSON: I think that`s right but I think there is good reason for it.
I think that Loretta Lynch, I went to law school with her, and I can tell
you, she is extremely bright, she`s very hard working, and she is someone
who holds people accountable. And that`s what she want from an attorney
general. It is easy to go after the people who are openly threatening the
United States who were kind of vowing to destroy us. And she will do that
with incredible skill and tact. But you also want to hold accountable the
people who don`t do the right thing and they do it in a much more covert
way, whether it`s an elected official or a law enforcement officer, she has
shown that she is willing to do that and I think that`s very exciting to
all communities in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: So in "Just Mercy," part of what you do is ask us to think
more carefully about the things that could bring us down. The things that
could potentially harm us. And you say, we are all implicated when we
allow other people to be mistreated. And absence of compassion can corrupt
the decency of the community. A state, a nation. Fear and anger can make
us vindictive, an abusive, unjust, and unfair until we all suffer from the
absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.
Part of that is you suggesting that the way we do criminal justice actually
can erode who we are as a people?
STEVENSON: Oh, I think that`s absolutely right. I mean, the fact that we
have thrown so many people away, we`ve created a political culture that is
defined by the politics of fear and anger, everybody is competing with each
other on who can be toughest on crime. Nobody is allowed to say the word
rehabilitation. Nobody is allowed to say the word recovery, redemption and
restoration. And when you start acting like that and you start thinking
like that you disconnect, in my view, from your own humanity. We all need
mercy, we all need forgiveness sometimes, we all need to be the
beneficiaries of other`s compassion. And we can`t get that if we don`t
show that. And I think our criminal justice system has become this model
of reflexive animosity, and anger, and fear. And that is undermined not
only the integrity of that system but it`s victimize a lot of people
including some of the people who work for it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I get that and generally, I`m highly sympathetic with
that position of the matter of ideology position, but the personal moment
of victimization in which either in the context of murder or rape or
assaults, I`m not talking about drug law.
HARRIS-PERRY: Were you feel that that person did not show mercy to you or
to your loved one, how do we deal with that? I mean, you know, you read
this and it`s lovely, but then you`re feeling like yes, but I lost my
cousin or my brother, or my own experiences in it.
STEVENSON: Yes. I mean, my grandfather was murdered when I was 16. I
have family members who suffered horrific crime and violence. And I
remember, when my grandfather was murdered, what people were saying to her
is that, you know, we should think of the most harsh and destructive things
that we can think off to do this kids who killed this 86-year-old man who
was sitting in a project and they killed him for a TV. And my grandmother
said no, I want to create a community where the children don`t kill the
elders, we don`t look at the ways in which we could hurt each other.
Because that`s a community that is not going to be good for anybody. And I
think that is ultimately what we`re trying to do. I mean, I do believe
that every person is more than the worst thing they have ever done.
That is what my clients have taught me and people have made tragic
mistakes, and we can`t sometimes do anything to recover the tragedy that
they have created, but we can think about what`s required and what`s more
than that worst act. As a result of that, I do think that even people who
have been victimized are looking for a way to reconcile themselves with
that loss. One of the most effective anti-death penalty organizations in
this country is a group called murder victims families for reconciliation.
Who were promised to all of this good feeling when they executed the person
kill their love one. And it didn`t happen.
STEVENSON: We have ultimately got to create a world with less violence,
less tension, less murder, less rape and we don`t do it by simply
demonizing those individuals when we got this bigger structural problems.
HARRIS-PERRY: My college mentor Maya Angelo used to say to me, to all of
us who she thought she would say, nothing human can be alien to me, which
means both the great things that people accomplish and the horse that
anything humans are capable of, then you too, are capable of them.
Thank you to Bryan Stevenson, the book again is "Just Mercy." A story of
justice and redemption. Absolutely worth the read. Still to come this
morning, the star of "The Little Tin Man," Aaron Beelner, he is coming to
Nerdland. And first, do you know what Tom Brokaw was doing 25 years ago on
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day, 25 years ago, an infamous and endearing symbol
of the cold war came down, the Berlin Wall. For nearly 30 years, the wall
made East German a virtual prisoners in their own homeland. The communist
government in East Germany began construction on the wall in August of 1961
sealing off the western section of Berlin that had been occupied by the
U.S. and its allies after World War II. Virtually overnight, a city and
many families were divided. The wall fortified by barbed wire, concrete
dividers and armed guards was aimed at stemming the flow of refugees from
East to West, Berlin. Still thousands made the paralyst (ph) journey a
nearly 200 were killed attempting to cross the border. The wall became
synonymous with the philosophical dividing line between east and west.
Between American style capitalism and Soviet style communism. It was a
rallying cry for American presidents from John F. Kennedy who visited the
wall and issued this declaration in solidarity with West Berlin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And therefore as a
free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: To Ronald Reagan who issued this famous challenge to his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear
down this wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Two years after Reagan`s challenge of the cold war begins
across Eastern Europe. A member of the East German politburo declared
during a press conference that travel restrictions would be lifted. Now,
the policy was supposed to be gradual but he mistakenly said it would take
effect immediately. Within hours thousands of people were at the Berlin,
Eastern West Berliners celebrating together, some with hammers and picks to
chip away at the wall. NBC`s Tom Brokaw was the only American network
anchor reporting from the scene the night that that history was made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Good evening. Live from the Berlin Wall on
a historic night in this wall`s history. What you see behind me is a
celebration of this new policy announced today by the East German
government that now, for the first time since the wall is erected in 1961,
people will be able to move through freely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Twenty five years later, a unified Germany is commemorating
that momentous day with many events including illuminating a nine mile
stretch where the Berlin Wall once stood. A shining tribute to the
dividing line that came down as a united people rose up on this day
November 9th, 1989.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In the 2013 film "The Little Tin Man," actor Aaron Beelner
plays, well, an actor once who finds himself type cast because of his
stature. And to roles like Santa`s helper, or munchkin and a remake of
"Wizard of Oz." But Beelner`s character Herman Mitchell decides he wants
to pursue a different role.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Are you going to audition to be a munchkin tomorrow?
AARON BEELNER, ACTOR, "THE LITTLE TIN MAN": Not just a munchkin, the mayor
of munchkin land, the hierarchy that deserves to be recognize there.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He should be the tin man, but he`s just a dude looking
for a Harriet (ph), that`s perfect for you.
BEELNER: Are there any other roles available without the word munchkin? I
just want to know I have to be type cast. No, I would like to -- I`m
thinking 30 seconds. I just want another chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Beelner is also an activist working to bring awareness to
the discrimination and stereotypes that little people face in their
everyday lives. Issues he addresses through stand-up comedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEELNER: People say whatever is on their mind when they run into a little
person. They say exactly what`s on their mind. You`re little.
You`re little. I didn`t know about this. You`re right. I was at a job
interview. I didn`t get the job, I wonder why. Probably because I said
(bleep) too many times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last month, Beelner took to the streets of New York to find
out if anyone ever knew October was dwarfism awareness month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEELNER: What does dwarfism awareness mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Not a whole lot. I have not really heard that before.
BEELNER: Are you familiar with dwarfism awareness month?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I am not unfortunately.
BEELNER: Have you ever heard of the term midget?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes.
BEELNER: What does that word mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A short person.
BEELNER: If I use the term midget, what do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A short person.
BEELNER: Do you think that word`s offensive?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I`m not sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not sure. Well let`s find out, because my guest Aaron
Beelner says, there`s no need to focus on issues facing little people
solely during dwarfism awareness month. So pleased to welcome to Nerdland,
actor comedian and activist Aaron Beelner. All right. Aaron, start with
the idea of comedy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because it feels to me that like with African-Americans,
with women, with marginalized groups, comedy can be an effective tool but
can also sometimes backfire. Can create more of that very angst that is
part of the stereotyping.
BEELNER: Absolutely. You know, my goal is to inform and educate without
being too preachy. And so comedy is a great way to do that. But it can
have like you said kind of a backlash and you become the butt of the joke
which is not what you were intending to do. You know, the last month was
dwarfism awareness month. And to me every month should be awareness for
everything. And so, I`ve had people say, what does that mean? What is
dwarfism awareness? And I kind of get caught off guard. And like, I`m not
quite sure. I don`t know if we fought them, if we tag them, if we`re
supposed to cage them. You know, I think it`s more to be real as opposed
to dwarfism awareness month, it`s apathy -- not apathy, empathy and not
apathy and to say, hey, we`re all human beings. You know? When I walk
into a room, of course, I stand at four feet and three inches tall. But
I`m not mentally four feet and three inches tall. Sometimes I feel like
I`m 90. So it depends on what day. But it`s the idea that you`re out
there to do everything that anyone else is doing. And I`m not asking for
special benefits. I don`t want privileges. I just want to be considered
HARRIS-PERRY: So, so, this, this point that you made about a connection
between physical stature and mental or emotional capacity seems to me to be
a central aspect of the kind of discriminatory both social but also really
importantly economic discriminatory experiences that are faced by people
BEELNER: Absolutely. I mean, if you look at, you know, in the job force
and when I have had numerous job interviews, and I actually heard one
interviewer say, you sound so much bigger on the phone. And from that
moment forward, the interview was shot. It`s done. You know, I just stood
there going, okay, I probably should leave now. So it`s getting that
chance. You know? No matter what the situation, and no matter who is the
person is. You know, we judge by color. We judge by gender. We judge by
religion. We judge by everything. And you know, was listening to pointer
gate, and why, why, why.
BEELNER: You know. We`re all human beings. And I get that great
question. Well what do you like to be called? I like to be called Aaron.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So on that, because you actually, in the man on the
street videos you asked this question, I want to, I want to play it and get
you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEELNER: The term midget comes from midge, which refers to a small fly so
it`s very dehumanizing. So I would say that a lot of little people, you
ask them, not that they could absolutely relate, but they`d say it`s almost
as offensive as like a racial slur and that it is very outdated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you`re talking to people on the street, do they know
that the "m" word is a slur? Is that something that folks have an
BEELNER: Not, not on average. You know, the pejorative connotation of
that word doesn`t strike people. They just think it`s like saying, okay,
this person is African-American or this person is Caucasian.
HARRIS-PERRY: They think it`s descriptive as opposed. Yes.
BEELNER: Exactly. As opposed to it`s very, you know, degrading. And the
fact that the term midget comes from midge. That`s a bug. So who is
wanting that title? Yes, I`m like a bug.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. And what does that suggest about the desire to
crush or to eliminate.
BEELNER: Exactly! It`s something that you flick, and move away, and it`s
a pest, you know. And I don`t consider -- well, maybe some of my family
members might consider me a pest.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. But that`s just because of who you actually are.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not because of how tall you are.
BEELNER: Exactly. There you go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you a question about the industry that you`re in,
which is to say the entertainment industry and again not to make too many
comparisons to African-Americans but there`s a thing that happens for
example around black women where, you know, there will be a new set of
roles out and the questions will so, do you play a maid? Do you play a --
you know, do you play a role that has a stereotype in it because
everybody`s got to eat and work.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or in so doing, are you like reinforcing the stereotypes of
the community so similarly for little people who are, you know, when the
new "Wizard of Qz" movie comes out. Do you encourage another take the job
or do you try to say, maybe we shouldn`t take the job?
BEELNER: That`s a very tough question and, you know, you sit on the fence
with that because to me, I would have a hard time taking that role. And
then there would be other little people that say okay, be real, Aaron,
that`s a paycheck.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I got to eat.
BEELNER: It`s an opportunity. You have bills. And who doesn`t. And so
it would be very challenging. It would be very, very challenging. But
honestly at this point in my life and things I`ve experienced, no, I would
pass. I would pass.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Thank you to Aaron Beelner both for being here. And
also for your work. That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday, 10 a.m. Eastern.
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