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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Saturday show

January 24, 2015

Guest: Bryce Covert, Hector Cordero Guzman, David Boaz, Christopher
Persley, Madeleine Villanueva, Ella Bravo, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Julian
McPhillips, Jill Filipovic, Mike Pesca

HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, my question, just how soft are Tom Brady`s
hands? Plus, the GOP punts on its abortion band.

And the universal coverage we almost got. But first, President Obama keeps
it classy.

Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, let`s take a little journey
together, back to January 2009. Do you remember? In a historic political
victory, President Obama assumed office and as he did, the country was
making a less triumphant history, the worst economic prices since the Great
Depression. Unemployment was 7.8 percent, joblessness would peek above 10
percent by the president`s first October in office. The economy had shed
more than two and a half million jobs the prior year and our national GDP
had in fact decreased the final quarter prior to his election. Household
debt was at a near record high in the foreclosure crisis and mortgage
meltdown meant American families were watching their hard-earned wealth

The situation was so dire it led the satirical newspaper "The Onion" to
declare, quote, "Black man given nation`s worst job." This financial
crisis set not on the agenda of the Obama administration, it also set the
tone. For the past six years, the president typically has tempered his
public remarks about the economy by acknowledging that there was still work
to do, hills to climb, barriers to be overcome before we could begin to
truly see the economic crisis in our collective rearview mirror. Maybe
it`s because we`ve grown accustomed to his measure tone, that the president
sounded so different during Tuesday night`s State of the Union address.


that we have endured, from all the grit and then hard work required to come
back, for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this, the shadow of crisis has
passed. And the State of the Union is strong.



HARRIS-PERRY: And so it seems, the shadow of the crisis has passed. But
if the crisis is over, then why exactly did the president spend most of the
next hour discussing his policies to address the economy?


OBAMA: Nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. If you
truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than
$15,000 a year, try it.


OBAMA: And let`s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing
the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulative wealth.
They`ve riddled it with giveaways that the superrich don`t need.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s about the economy, but don`t miss this because even
for historic president who presided over historic economic crisis, this
particular way of thinking about economic crisis is noteworthy. Because
traditional indicators show that this president`s economic legacy is
secure. The economy is growing, unemployment is down to 5.6 percent, gas
prices are at their lowest in years. Consumer confidence is at its highest
in over a decade. New homes are being built, the stock market is humming
along, he`s won. Indeed as he`s noted on Tuesday, he won twice. But even
with both of those electoral wins and an economy around which many
presidents would take a victory lap. President Obama has drawn the
nation`s attention back to the economy.

This time with the goal of making its address to stark divide between the
haves and have notes. The 99 and one percent parts of the economy that
American social movements first introduced to our political lexicon, the
president wants us to talk about class. Yes, I said it, class. The class
is - rarely used to organize politics in America. Since the young
Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville traveled our nation in the 1830s filling
his notebooks with his observations of this grand experiment and self-
governess happening across the Atlantic and wrote no novelty in the United
States has struck me more vividly during my stay there than the equality of

Despite the genocide and expulsion of indigenous peoples, despite the
entrenched system of Southern slavery, despite the subjugation of women, as
a European traveler, Tocqueville was taken aback by the egalitarianism of
America. And we have remained people deeply invested in this idea of
democratic meritocracy. We are invested in the belief that while
inequality may exist, it is not permanent. Individuals may face struggles,
but our politics are not defined by ongoing class struggle. The American
dream acknowledges that not everyone starts in the same place, but it
promises that no matter where you begin, it is hard work, individual
sacrifice, and hard earned merit that are always most important in
determining where you end up.

So much so that middle and working class for once, ubiquitous self-
definitions for Americans because nearly all of us tended to identify with
the striving center of our economy. In recent years, this has changed. As
Pew reports, the proportion of Americans who identify as middle class has
dropped sharply in recent years. And this has happened while those who
identify as lower classes increased. The shadow of the economic crises may
be over, but a new and perhaps more durable crisis has emerged, American
economic inequality may be more stark and more definitive than ever, and
with this economic reality comes a fundamental shift in American politics.
We are now having a conversation about class. Joining me now, Robert
Traynham, an MSNBC contributor and former Bush-Cheney senior advisor.
Bryce Covert, who is an economic policy editor for ThinkProgress and
contributor to "The Nation." Hector Cordero Gumez - excuse me, Guzman, who
is professor at Baruch College of Public Affairs and David Boaz who is
executive vice president at the CATO Institute and author of "The
Libertarian Mind: a Manifesto for Freedom." OK. So this is just to all of
you guys. Are we in a new place? Are we now in an America that thinks
about class as central to how we`re going to organize our politics?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Melissa, back in
November, eight out of ten American voters said that the economic situation
that they currently find themselves in, or that they feel that they`re in
is the number one issue as to why they`re voting for whatever members of
Congress that they voted for. We now know that the vast majority obviously
voted for Republicans. This moment that we`re in reminds me a little bit .

HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, no, back up, that`s not quite right. So there are
more Republicans who won, but not because there was a vast majority more
Americans who voted for them, but rather because of the way that the
districts are measured.

TRAYNHAM: But hold on, but some of those incumbent Democrats lost.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Sure, sure, sure.

TRAYNHAM: That just makes you .

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, I just don`t - just not quite - that there`s a vast

TRAYNHAM: I understand. But the reality is eight out of ten still said
what they said in terms of the economic .


TRAYNHAM: They find themselves in.


TRAYNHAM: This moment, this economic moment that I find that I think we`re
in reminds me a little bit of 1991 when George H.W. Bush said the economy
is strong, but people were saying, I don`t feel that. It doesn`t make
sense to me. The reason why it doesn`t make sense to me, is because the
harder I work, the more money I bring in, I still cannot make basic ends
meet. This is not about going to Disneyworld, this is not about going to
France, this is about trying to put my kids through college and making car
payments. And so what the president is I think trying to frame is saying,
the fundamentals are there, we`re doing great, however, the economic
disparity that we currently find ourselves in, there`s a lot of work that
needs to be done.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, not only is that sort of a critical point of view, but
before I start, I also want to point out that, as what we are saying,
Americans actually are not as we typically have when we have economic
struggles, we blame ourselves, we decide to work harder, but in recent Pew
study, 62 percent blame Congress a lot, 54 percent blame financial
institutions, 47 percent large corporations, just over a third blame the
Obama administration, but only eight percent blame the middle class
themselves. Is this there for the shift? The sense that it is
institutional, structural things that are tipping off from benefitting from
the overall improvement in the economy?

you know, the fundamentals are there, the economy is doing so much better
than it was during the recession and even the beginning of the recovery,
but people aren`t feeling it. And we have had many years of so-called
recovery where this has been true, things have been gradually getting
better and the average American is still having a really hard time paying
her bills, feeding her family. Working multiple jobs, and they know that
they`re working hard, and they don`t see the rewards, and I think they`re
starting to say look, I`m doing what I`m supposed to be doing and this
American dream is not coming my way.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, are we wrong to be looking to the institutions that
we`re blaming? In other words, to say, if I think that Congress is the one
standing in the way? Shouldn`t I be looking for government redress of that
should be - I mean many libertarians might claim, no, actually, you don`t
want sort of government coming in to try to fix these?

DAVID BOAZ, EXEC., VP. THE CATO INSTITUTE: Well, we should certainly look
for redress. Libertarians who are tend to say, there are laws we should
repeal rather than new laws and new taxes that we should pass. Because
there are a lot of laws ranging from the taxing cartel to the licensing to
the too big to fail bailouts for banks that help the rich or at least the
established against people who are not yet established. And so, in my
view, if you had a freer market, you would have more people succeeding,
more people with the opportunity to succeed. And that is a problem that
both parties are responsible for. You try to change any of these things
from terrorists to protect, businesses that produce in the United States,
to the too big to fail and the bailouts to the taxing cartel on the local
level, and you`re going to get both Democrats and Republicans resisting
change that would open up the economy.

HARRIS-PERRY: But part of what`s interesting is you hear is the president
does seem to be suggesting both last week and then in the State of the
Union saying there is one place we are going to have to tax in order to
really change this, and that is the ability to give all of the money to the
next generation. Right. That we`re going to need to tax that inheritance
in order to provide a more even playing field for others.

sense is that there`s some consensus that the recession had a devastating
impact on the middle class and on the poor, correct? And the recovery has
not been even for all those sectors of the economy.

BOAZ: Yep. Yep.

GUZMAN: For the rich and the very rich, the economy has recovered
spectacularly. For the middle class, it`s been, you know, a rough going.
And I think a lot of the policies that the president proposed, higher
minimum wages, paid sick leave, training, community college, are policies
that are designed to move more of that middle class, more of the lower
class into the middle class and more of that middle class of the latter.
There is a huge gap between Americans notion of fair distribution of
wealth, and the reality of that distribution of wealth, right? If you ask
Americans they`ll tell you, 30 percent of the top 20 percent should make 30
percent of the pie.


GUZMAN: OK? What it really is, it`s 84 percent. Right? So we have a pie
that very few people are eating big chunks of. And it strikes oddly to
Americans sense of fairness and opportunity. And they`re not blaming
themselves because obviously for many people, they`re working harder than
ever. And earning the same or sometimes less than ever. And that`s the

HARRIS-PERRY: Pause, we`re going to get everybody back in on these
questions, but when we come back, I`m going to ask, is it class or is it


OBAMA: I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda - I know because I
won both of them.



HARRIS-PERRY: Now that American politics is increasingly infused with
conversations about class, an old question has once again become relevant.
Why did the United States never develop a dominant left wing working class
party like our European counterparts? In short, what has kept class from
being the primary source of political identity in America? One offed sided
answer, race. The argument suggests that the deep scar of slavery and the
injustices of Jim Crowe have meant racial, rather than class issues have
been most relevant for dividing the parties and defining the debates.

Then 35 years ago, Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson published his
foundational book. "The Declining Significance of Race" and proposed that
race was no longer the primary barrier to mobility for black Americans.
Look, instead Wilson counselled to the bitter pill of poverty. He wrote,
"As the influence of race on minority class stratification decreases, class
takes on greater importance in determining the life chances of minority
individuals." That provocative thesis, class over race set the stage for
debate that rages today about the sources and remedies for American

But even as President Obama encourages us to think more carefully about
class, evidence suggests that race remains a powerful indicator of life,
opportunities, and outcomes. For example, the infant mortality rate for
black mothers is more than twice as high as the rate for white mothers.
And that disparity persists across socioeconomic status. The issue gets
even stickier when we consider economic mobility. Not only are lower
income black Americans less likely to experience upward mobility, but once
they`ve made it to the middle class, black families actually move downward.
68 percent of white children born to middle income families will earn
higher income than their parents. But the majority of black children from
middle income families will end up earning less than their parents. And
almost half will fall from middle class status to the bottom of the income
distribution. This is a report by the Brookings Institute found that
achieving middle income status does not appear to protect black children
from future economic adversity the same way it protects white children.

Meaning that despite the popularity of Drake`s track, we actually started
from the middle, now we`re here.

Up next, President Obama`s middle class economics and racial inequality.



OBAMA: So now we`ve got to choose what our future will look like, and when
I look up at this crowd, it`s your generation in particular that`s going to
have to decide what this future looks like. Are we going to accept an
economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well or do we commit
ourselves to an economy that generates opportunity and rising incomes for
everybody who`s willing to work hard and make an effort?


OBAMA: That`s a choice we`ve got to make.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, that was President Obama continuing the arguments he
made in the State of the Union for more fair economy, but part of what I
found interesting where also the Republican responses. I want to listen to
two. I want to listen to Mitt Romney also talking about economic
inequality and then to Rand Paul in his response, which also sounded quite


human tragedy that the middle class in this country by and large doesn`t
believe the future will be better than the past or that kids will have a
brighter future than their own. Under President Obama, the rich have
gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people
in poverty in America than ever before.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R) KENTUCKY: Good evening, I wish I had better news for
you, but all is not well in America. America is adrift. Something is
clearly wrong. America needs many things, but what America desperately
needs is new leadership. Pitting one American against another is not a
pathway towards prosperity. The president is intent on redistributing the
pie, but not growing it.


HARRIS-PERRY: So in response to get Rand Paul doing, a kind of pushing
back against it, but in the days before, you`d had Mitt Romney also making
a kind of inequality argument, what does that tell you about where we are

COVERT: Well, Rand Paul so has said income inequality is real. It`s -
there was sort of like a truther (ph) thing going on about income
inequality, like climate science, it doesn`t exist, Republicans said,
you`re being a class warrior. Now a bunch of them are saying it does exist
and it`s Obama`s fault. Which is interesting because it has grown under
his watch. And I think where you`re going to see the diversion is, so what
do we do about it? You know, Obama`s talking about capital gains taxes.
And that is one of the biggest causes of income inequality, but you can
imagine Republicans are not going to jump on that boat.

BOAZ: You asked earlier why we don`t have a left wing class-based party in
America, which is something political scientists have asked a lot. And
maybe the answer is, race, that just sort of divided us into two classes
and that`s all we needed, but, it may be, but I think it`s also that the
American tradition of individualism, antistatism (ph), what I would call
equalitarianism - not egalitarianism. We don`t expect that everybody will
be equal, people have different talents, different amounts of luck,
everything, but equality under the law, equal dignity and there obviously
race was a terrible exception, but equal dignity under the law. Miss
Manors (ph) writes about this, you know, in "Jeffersonian Manners" (ph)
that in Europe, there is a real class system, even today. Whereas an
America it`s always been the case that the shoe shine guy, the small
businessman, the lawyer in the big house, still regarded each other as
political and social equals, even though they had varying amounts of money.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So here`s the question, though. So, what if that is
no longer true? So, what if - what if I sort of say, OK, that is at
minimum, it is part of our self-understanding that`s deeply entrenched, but
that exactly the issue is this idea that children will not do as well as
their parents and they`re working hard doesn`t pay off, if that`s true,
then how do we begin to correct that issue?

GUZMAN: When the top one percent of the population is making 41 percent of
the wealth in the country, clearly calls for solutions. Right? And it
clearly speaks to the game being somewhat rigged against the middle class,
against the working class. That`s why the policy correctives of wages,
training, paid sick days, paid family leave, are opportunities to let the
bottom of the labor market go up. So that people can catch up. I find it
curious that we seem to have more sympathy for billionaires than we have
for the average working person that`s trying to work at McDonald`s or
somewhere else, trying to raise a family.

BOAZ: When you say more sympathy for billionaires, can you give an

GUZMAN: Well, all of the concern from a policy perspective to ensure .

BOAZ: The tax perspective?

GUZMAN: That they`re so-called freedom to earn a greater amounts of money,
preserve while the rest of the society is enslaved by poverty and enslaved
by inequality.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this is a real challenge, right? This question
of .

GUZMAN: What freedom are we talking about?

HARRIS-PERRY: And in part, like even from the bottom, because of this
belief in class mobility, people were, have typically been in America
unwilling to tax at the top because they believe, well, someday, you know,
someday I`m going to be .

GUZMAN: I`m going to get there. I`m going to get there.

HARRIS-PERRY: But if people no longer believe that.


HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly. If people no longer believe that .


GUZMAN: But that`s one million dollars.

BOAZ: I get you.

GUZMAN: We are not going to get there.

BOAZ: But they didn`t all start there. Sam Walton didn`t start there.


HARRIS-PERRY: But the thing is Walton`s such a great example, then
Walton`s children are born and they are born there. So like, and it is one
thing to be .


BOAZ: Born there either, but his grandchildren are born rich.

HARRIS-PERRY: And without having to have achieved that.

BOAZ: Right. Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: And to me, that`s the question is, is not - I mean I think
we can have question about ethics of how someone gets there. But the real
question is why his grandchildren then deserve to be in that class having
only just been - having not earned his way.

Before we go to break, I do want to update you on the huge winter storm
impacting more than 6 million people this morning. That system is dumping
snow and rain from eastern Tennessee into northern Maine. More than a foot
of snow has fallen in Amarillo, Texas, double the record for this time of
the year. As the storm heads up the East Coast and into New England, some
places could get up to six inches of snow. And another storm system is
coming in right behind this one.

For the latest, MSNBC`s Chris Pollone joins us from Andover, Massachusetts.

Chris, what are the conditions like where you`re at right now? It`s
looking - looking like you`re standing in the snow there.

CHRIS POLLONE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, Melissa. We`ve had
these big, fat snowflakes falling since about 5:30 this morning here in the
(INAUDIBLE) valley of Massachusetts. And as you can see, if you take a
look behind me, you can see that the roads here are completely snow-
covered. It`s been really treacherous all morning, and the town of Andover
has really been running a lot of plows this morning, spreading salt and
sand. But they are not able to keep up with the pace of this snowfall.
Now as you can see, people are out and about. It`s not as busy as it would
be on a normal weekday, Obviously, it`s a Saturday, so they`re making their
way slowly up and down the road here.

We do know that there are several accidents out in various towns, spinouts,
car crashes, minor things, no major injuries, and on the Mass Turnpike, the
speed limit is down to about 40 miles an hour. There`s been a tractor
trailer rollover in Southborough, Massachusetts, that`s been cleaned up in
the last hour. So far slow going out here on the roads. We`re expecting
about five to nine inches of snow. We probably have three to four inches
here already. And it is a heavy, wet snow. Great for snowballs, but if
you have got to get out and shovel this, it is not fun. And it can
actually be very strenuous activity. So that`s the story here in Andover,
Melissa, will send it back to you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Chris Pollone in Massachusetts, making what I presume are
fully inflated snowballs. Thanks and try to stay warm with us.

Up next, how Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is taking money from kids to
clean up his own mess.


GOV. SAM BROWNBACK (R) KANSAS: Friends, it is time for a new school
finance formula.


BROWNBACK: And that formula should reflect real world cost and put dollars
in the classroom. With real students. Not in bureaucracy, in buildings,
and gimmicks.



HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe you saw my letter last week to Kansas Governor Sam
Brownback, but I don`t think he saw it. Maybe it was returned to sender.
Because in that letter I detailed the governor`s recent doubling down on
his march to zero income taxes. His refusal to ask the states wealthiest
to pay their fair share while simultaneously hiking taxes on cigarettes and
liquor. Now, this week more details about Governor Brownback`s plan to fix
his state`s mangled finances are coming to light. The governor wants to
cut classroom funding for Kansas schools by $127 million. I want to
underline that. As part of the plan to dig the state of Kansas out of a
nearly billion dollar hole which the governor helped to create, he wants to
cut classroom funding by $127 million. And Kansas, you may remember is the
same place where a state court panel ruled just last month that the
education funding was so low, it was unconstitutional.

Joining me now, from Kansas City, Missouri, is Joan Wagnon who is chair of
the Democratic Party of Kansas, she`s the former secretary of revenue for
the Kansas Department of Revenue and a former state representative.

Joan, I want to ask you about the plan, the formula that was put into place
in 1992, you were part of that, to help people who aren`t from Kansas to
understand what it is that the governor is now doing and how that will
impact that formula.

because of a court case that said we were not funding all students equally.
Before that, it had just been legislators lined up and whoever had the most
votes, their schools got the most money. So this formula does exactly what
the governor says he wants a new formula to do. It delivers money
equitably to all students and it makes sure that they are, are treated
equally and adequately. The adequate is the problem because he won`t put
money in it. So when he`s cutting this 127 million now, the formula can`t
possibly work because it doesn`t have enough money in it.

What the old formula or the current formula does is make sure that poor
kids get a little extra, students who maybe speak a second language or
English is not their first language, students that live very, very far away
from their school district have transportation money. So there are a
number of factors that are taken into account to make sure that it`s -
there`s equity.

In addition to that, property tax, which districts get less state aid than
the poor property tax districts? And so, that`s part of the fairness.
People have talked about scrapping it, I don`t know how they`re going to
get rid of it and still be constitutional.

HARRIS-PERRY: So help me to understand a bit here, what the governor`s
other options would be. I mean you`ve got a billion dollar deficit, he`s
saying, well, here`s a place where I can kind of go and pull some of it
out. What other alternatives does he have?

WAGNON: Well, the first thing that he could do that would be correcting
the problem is get rid of his tax proposal. He`s giving 190,000 people who
are primarily business owners like doctors and lawyers no tax. They pay
zero income tax in Kansas. And he`s cut the higher rate much lower, it`s a
27 percent cut at the top, he could restore those cuts, he could take away
that exception, and he had - plenty of money to fund schools, to take care
of people in need, to fund Medicaid expansion and all of those things that
are so very important.

HARRIS-PERRY: So what are the politics then of Kansas that, I mean clearly
the governor was reelected and must believe he has a kind of political
basis for doing this.

WAGNON: The governor was barely reelected, he even got less than 50
percent of the vote, but what he has is an awful lot of very conservative
Republicans in the House. But they don`t like this plan either because
what the governor wants them to do is raise cigarette taxes and raise
liquor taxes. Take away exemptions in the income tax for the home mortgage
exemption on your federal tax. They don`t like his plan either. So what
they`re going to have to do is realize that we cannot go to zero on income
tax and sustain the services that we have and the losers are going to be
children in the classroom, poor people, and in fact, he`s going to destroy
the business climate of the state.

HARRIS-PERRY: Joan, hold just one second, Bryce, I just to want get you in
on this, because it does feel like it is kind of a demonstration project,
then we`ve been talking about this morning around issues of inequality.

COVERT: Absolutely. I think Kansas has been an experiment in trickled
down economics. If you cut taxes, will your state grow, will the pot grow
for everybody, and the evidence right now coming out of it is no, you`re
going to have a huge budget hole, the jobs rate in that state has lagged
behind the national average, and he`s now having to resort to things like
cutting education to cut paper over that hole. So, you know, we`re looking
at income inequality, always has to go back to tax rates because that`s
been the biggest driver for income inequality. We can look at those
experiment and say, maybe we need to look at the top and how people are
taxed and think about rearranging those rates so that they`re a little bit
more fair.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, David, I mean this feels to me, again, kind of - this is
the thing that we`ve been talking about. If poor children in Kansas don`t
have the same, literally don`t have the same opportunity to rise up that
ladder as say the Waltons, like it`s - this is the kind of thing that it
seems to me strikes Americans as patently unfair.

BOAZ: Yes, poor education for poor children is a very big problem in our
country. What the governor said in the clip, and I`m no expert on it, but
what the governor said in the clip was that he wanted to move money away
from the school of bureaucracy and into the classroom. Considering that we
have quadrupled education spending in the United States, and yet test
scores have stayed flat for 40 years, that suggests that putting more money
into the schools is not the answer. And that`s why libertarians have
talked about giving poor kids options. Let them go to non-governmental
schools to voucher a tax credit or something like that. And Governor
Brownback seems to be only talking about rearranging money in the public
schools. I don`t think that`s a sufficient answer to the problem of poor
schools for poor kids.

HARRIS-PERRY: Joan, I`m going to give you 20 seconds to just finish us up
here. Would you like to respond to that?

WAGNON: Yeah, there are a number of ways to solve the problems, and
getting vouchers for poor children, school choice we already sort of have
that in the ability of people to move from one district to another. As
long as they don`t upset a racial ballots. So, that alone is not going to
solve it, but what`s wrong is the money does go to the classroom. It`s,
it`s not truthful that it doesn`t go to the classroom. It does.

HARRIS-PERRY: Joan Wagnon in Kansas City, Missouri, thank you so much for
joining us. And, of course, we are reminded when we start talking about
Kansas and education, that, of course, it was Brown v Board of Topeka,
Kansas. That questions of fairness is right there at the center of our
nation. Robert Traynham is going to be back in the next hour. Thank you
to Bryce Covert, also to Hector Guzman and to David Boaz.

Up next, more on America`s children and why some parents are now paying
more for child care than for their mortgage.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, if you haven`t had to foot the bill for child care
lately, you might not realize - the sense of it is. In 31 states, you`ll
pay more to send an infant to fulltime day care than to send a student to
the public college. That can be a big burden on many families, or
particularly on low income families who are likely to spend 30 percent of
their income on child care. So during Tuesday`s State of the Union
address, President Obama laid out some initiatives to help parents. Here`s
how he introduced the topic.


OBAMA: During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war,
having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security
priority. So this country provided universal child care.


HARRIS-PERRY: Wait a minute, can we hear that again?


OBAMA: During World War II when men like my grandfather went off to war,
having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security
priority. So this country provided universal child care.

So this country provided universal child care.


HARRIS-PERRY: You know what, universal child care, in this country? Well,
sort of. The Lanham Act of 1940 established facilities in 635 communities
across the country that cared for kids while their fathers were at war and
their mothers were at work. The centers were placed in towns that could
prove they were contributing to the war effort. And for no more than 75
cents a day, about 10 bucks in today`s dollars, children received meals and
early education. The last center closed in 1946. Universal child care was
actually much closer to becoming a reality in 1971 when Congress passed the
comprehensive Child Development Act, it laid the foundation for a network
of child care centers open to families of all income levels on a fighting
scale. Congress even managed to authorize money for the program, but when
it landed on President Nixon`s desk, he vetoed it.

That leaves us where we are today with a system that my first guest calls a
no-win situation. Ellen Bravo is the executive director of Family Values
at work. Also at the table, stay at home dad and blogger for the Brown
Gothamite website, Christopher Persley, and Madeleine Villanueva, who is a
family child care small business specialist from the Committee for Hispanic
Children and Families. Ellen, why exactly is child care a no-win situation
in our family - in our country?

parents can`t afford to pay what they`re paying, including middle class
families, certainly not low income families, and child care providers often
live in poverty, and there`s a high turnover which is bad for everybody.

There`s no way that they can pay more or they can earn less. And so, we
can`t fix it unless we add a third leg to the stool. And that`s public
subsidies. Think about public education, it wasn`t always public, it
wasn`t always free, and it wasn`t always available to everyone.

HARRIS-PERRY: And it may becoming none of those things again.

BRAVO: Yes. But it changed over time, and the length of time changed, and
we need to change it now again. We need to lower it, start at age three,
and then we need a system, and guess what, we know what it looks like.
Because another branch of government does it, the military. Right now
today, they know how to do quality, they know how to do sliding scale.
They invest in training, they have good pay for the people who provide it.
They have a coordinated link system referral. We could do that. It`s not
about money, it`s about politics.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ellen, this is such an interesting point that you lay
out for us. It`s one that I want to dig into here. So how can it be that
it is so expensive for parents to pay for child care, but that child care
providers, in fact, makes a little less than teachers who we already know
don`t make enough. Often sometimes poverty level wages.

New York it is estimated to make about $24,000 a year. The high cost is
normally associated with the private care sector as opposed to the publicly
subsidized family child care providers. But the cost is high in many cases
just because of a lot of the regulation and the cost of renting the space.
They have to do background checks, fingerprinting for all of their staff.
There`s a lot of administration related to it as well in terms of assessing
the children, all of that.

HARRIS-PERRY: And these are protections we want, right? These are the
protections that both child care providers as well as obviously parents
undoubtedly want. When you talk to the folks that you are working with who
are providers, would they welcome something like what the president was
suggesting on Tuesday night?

VILLANUEVA: Well, right now it`s not certain how those moneys will be
allotted, definitely it would be helpful to have money going towards
professional development, because some of the regulation does require a lot
of the providers, nonetheless, they don`t have the support in order to
comply with the rules or regulations. Some of them do need to understand
how you perform an assessment since they`re behaving more like child
development specialists when their backgrounds really haven`t sort of been
in that. They`re not trained to do that. So providing them the assistance
in order to comply with all these regulations would definitely be very

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go to the parental side for a second, I have a
baby about to turn one, and obviously this issue of a no-win situation can
also feel that way when there are two parents who are also both working,
and then you look at the cost of child care, and if one of the parent`s
income doesn`t meet or exceed it, you start feeling like, well, maybe,
maybe we just shouldn`t even be trying to earn an income in this

CHRISTOPHER PERSLEY, STAY AT HOME DAD: That`s exactly where we were. We
did, I wanted to be home, so that`s when the conversation began. And we
started to look at the finances and we uncovered that it just didn`t make a
lot of sense for both of us to work if one of us wanted to be home and we
were possibly going to put ourselves in debt to do so. If both of us
continued to work. So, I do feel blessed to have the opportunity to be
home with my daughter and have that experience, but, it`s not just a great
thing for me, it`s also a financial consideration for us.

HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk a little bit more about
this, Ellen, and talk then about whether or not what we ought to be doing
is subsidizing child care, subsidizing households who have young children.
Like what are the multiple ways we could be thinking about reducing this
cost? More when we come back.



OBAMA: Those time we stop treating child care as a side issue. Or as a
women`s issue and treat it like the national economic priority that it is
for all of us.



HARRIS-PERRY: High quality child care openly benefits not just individuals
or families, the entire nation. That`s the argument that President Obama
has been making this week. So Ellen, in the break we were talking about,
OK, so child care, centers are one way to think about it, but there`s other
proposals out there, talk to me about that.

BRAVO: Well, let`s talk about infant care, the best providers of infant
care are parents. Right now one out of ten pregnant women go back to work
before four weeks. Was pointing this out. And one out of four before
eight. How do you find infant care at three weeks or five weeks? How
about dads who go back after a few days? They may not be sore or
lactating, but they are not sleeping. And they also want to bond with
those kids. So, what if we had a system when we called it paid leave,
which the president talked about. He talked about paid leave, and he talked
about paid sick days because kids need their parents then too. Because
they`re all connected. And they`re connected also to the economy.

If we let parents do what they do in Iceland, three, three, three, three
months for the mom, three months for the dad or the same-sex partner and
three months they share. It`s going to move to five, five, two. And guess
what happens. Most of the men take the leave after a year and a half, the
couple, 70 percent of them are sharing childcare. We have a system where
instead we push people into financial crisis. And that hurts the economy.
You ask small business people, people who don`t come buy their shoes or go
out to dinner - their roof fixed because they are in poverty, because they
had a baby. Bad for kids, bad for families, bad for the economy, paid
leave will help fix it. And so will paid sick days for sick kids.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, this strikes me as so important, that it`s the other
piece of it that on the one hand, we may want to push universal child care
down so we`re starting to think of three years old rather than five years
old as the time when kids enter into collective spaces and we share that
burden as a nation. And there`s lots of good economic benefits for that
investment, but on the other hand, the idea of going back to work when you
have the four week old makes me want to cry because they`re so tiny and
you`re still doing so much work of bonding, so is there like when you think
about as a stay at home parent, what are the policies that you would need
to make it really possible for you, and for others who might want to make
the choice that you make to be able to stay home?

PERSLEY: I think it definitely should be something for, and there should
be an option for both parents and encourage both parents to take the time,
very similar to the format that you were just discussing. There`s such a,
a stigma attached to men and dads staying at home and I think we need to
really move past that. I think there are a lot of fathers who have so much
to offer who are just so committed to bringing home that money and doing
that and doing this and kind of forgetting about the opportunities of
staying home and building that really wonderful report (ph). So, I think
first and foremost, it needs to start there that that encouragement for
both parents to stay at home. Much in the way that the president
mentioned. It really is a job for both parents.

HARRIS-PERRY: And when you talk about stigma, because that seems to me to
also be true for the professional men and women, most, mostly women who are
doing the work of infant to five-year-old child care. We think of
kindergarten teachers as teachers and high school principals as educators,
but despite the fact that we know how important those early years are, we
often don`t think of the women who are providing child care for 18 month
olds and two-year-olds as professionals who should be paid and supported
the way professionals should be.

VILLANUEVA: And I`m glad you bring that up because I think it`s important
to start breaking the myth that this is babysitting. It`s not babysitting,
and yes, they do offer custodial care, in that respect, they`re cared
keepers, but they`re also, you know, nutritionists, they have to cook the
food, they have to make sure it`s healthy in order to comply with the food
program. They also have to have an emergency plan, so their emergency
management personnel, whether it`s in shelter or in the evacuation plan,
they also need to know CPR and first aid. They have to maintain a clean
place. So, they need to know hygiene and sanitation standards, they also
need to be as we mentioned earlier, child development specialists in
certain respects. So, they`re wearing all these hats, they also need to be
social workers, they are mandated reporters, by the way, and then they
manage the operation. So they`re, you know, operations person, and then
the business owners, and the entrepreneurs at the same time.

HARRIS-PERRY: And therefore probably ought to make more than minimum wage.
I just think about Deidre who is the primary childcare provider for my
daughter - my older daughter and Hillary who provides childcare for our
baby now, and how critical they are to the work of raising those kids.
Thank you to Ellen Bravo and to Christopher Persley, also to Madeleine

Coming up next, revolt in the Republican ranks over key conservative issue
and the hot mess that is the National Football League. There is more
"Nerdland" at the top of the hour.


HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

Something gotten extraordinary happened in Congress this week. A group of
Republican lawmakers stopped their colleagues from voting against
reproductive rights. House Republicans had planned to vote Thursday on a
bill to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of presentation.

That was the plan. And we all knew it was coming, we were waiting for it.
Part of the reason we know it was coming is because the timing was not

Never let it be said that House Republicans lack for dramatic flair. They
had time to vote for Thursday, the 42nd anniversary over Roe v. Wade and
the date of the annual March for Life, anti-abortion rally on the Mall in
Washington, D.C.

But at the last minute, leaders pulled the bill from consideration. They
just bailed.

Let`s be clear by Washington standards, this is embarrassing stuff when
everyone knows you`re going to do something, and then at the last minute,
you have to not do it because you realize, uh-oh, we don`t have the votes
for this.

When you have to take your tale and run, well, it`s kind of weak. And it
was all thanks to a revolt led by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.
Now, you may remember Representative Ellmers from this moment in 2013
questioning the nation`s top policy official about Obamacare`s insurance


REP. RENEE ELLMERS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Single male, age 32 does not need
maternity coverage. To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever
delivered a baby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, ladies, time has expired.



HARRIS-PERRY: Uh-huh. That was an oldie, but goody.

OK, she`s not exactly the most progressive woman in Congress, but for
Ellmers and other, 20 week abortion ban went too far, one important way.

The bill`s exception for rape would only count if the rape was reported to
law enforcement. Ellmers may have foreseen critics saying that requirement
boiled down to determining whether a rape was legitimate. And so, she told
her colleagues to consider the optics, especially how the bill would look
to younger voters that Republicans are desperate to get in 2016.

She said, quote, "We got into trouble last year, and I think we need to be
careful again. We need to be smart about how we are moving forward. The
first vote we take or the second or fifth vote shouldn`t be on an issue
where we know that millennials, social issues just aren`t as important to

Ellmers and another Republican woman pulled their names from the bill`s
list of co-sponsors this week and the House leaders decided to cancel the
vote rather than pass an abortion bill opposed by some of their own party`s

But Thursday, it was still the March for Life in Washington, still the
anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that abortions are constitutionally
protected and Republicans were determined to pass some kind of an abortion
restriction. So, for the third time, the House passed a bill that would
expand the ban on federal funding for abortions.

Congresswoman Ellmers did vote for that one, so did nearly every other
Republican man and woman.

Here at the table, former Bush-Cheney advisor and MSNBC contributor Robert
Traynham, MSNBC national reporter Irin Carmon, and executive director for
the National Latino Institute for Reproductive Health, Jessica Gonzalez

So, nice to have everybody here.

Robert, are the Republicans embarrassed about needing to pull this? Is
this about elections mattering and women being -- I`m just wondering about
the internal Republican politics here.

TRAYNHAM: Well, a couple things, first and foremost, I think it`s great
that Republican women are speaking up and thinking about this, and,
obviously first and foremost as a woman, but also thinking about the optics
of this. We also should keep in mind that Congresswoman Ellmers comes from
North Carolina, which is a deep conservative state, in many ways --

HARRIS-PERRY: Excuse me.

TRAYNHAM: In many ways.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a purple, purple, state.

TRAYNHAM: President Obama won in 2008, but he lost it in 2012.

HARRIS-PERRY: Purple, purple.

TRAYNHAM: So, I`ll just say, OK, purple.


TRAYNHAM: But regardless, it is a state that is definitely progressive in
many, many ways.

My point simply is, is that members of Congress are getting up to speed
about the optics of this and the policy ramifications of what they do as it
relates to the political lens. Before it was always about, you know, this
was the right thing to do and the politics doesn`t matter. Well, the
politics do matter here, and I think the congresswoman and other members of
Congress are saying we need to think about this in a way that not only
speaks a language to a new generation of voters, but also do we really need
to be talking about this when we when we need to talk about the economy and
so forth?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s also interesting question -- I mean, to hear, to
hear the congresswoman talking like a cable news exec trying to figure out
how to get millennials, right, all obsessed with these days, how to get the
millennials to pay attention to us, is this indicative that the potentially
abortion has moved, maybe to the land of marriage equality as no longer a
wedge issue to be utilized by the parties?

IRIN CARMON, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: I feel like I`m taking crazy pills
this week. There is so much about this conversation that has been left
out, including the fact that Ellmers and many of the other female
colleagues that raised concerns about this voted for the exact same
language requiring rape victims to report to the police before they qualify
under the exception, including the fact that the dream for the anti-choice
movement is to have no rape expectations because they don`t think they
should exist. They think, and it`s internally consistent. If you believe
it`s a leg, you shouldn`t have a rape expectation.


CARMON: The worst nightmare this week for the Republican Party is that now
everybody is talking about women and they wanted to be talking about
fetuses. And so, you know, it`s great actually to see that Republican
women rising up.

But I think we also shouldn`t lose sight of the fact that even if this
provision is taking out, it`s still an incredibly restrictive ban on people
who are often in very straightened circumstances and even if the reporting
requirement is taken out, it`s still unconstitutional, it`s still affects
people who are in, facing really difficult choices in their lives. And it
wouldn`t be some kind of feminist victory, even if the small provision was
taken out.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting in part because the focus on the 20-week
ban is one that is, that hits to the heart of something that is maybe
somewhat different than a kind of general pro-life, pro-choice narrative
that we hear. So, help us to understand, 20 weeks, the folks who are
generally, typically, seeking termination at 20 weeks, what is happening
that leaves people that late in their pregnancy to seek --

I think the challenge here is that, women have so many circumstances, and
it`s hard, we don`t to want create a scenario where there`s good abortions
and bad abortions. We have to be compassionate about all the circumstances
that women face. And the scenario`s really interesting, and what`s
happened in Congress was not a victory, right? It was taking a bad bill,
already really bad, harmful bill and making it worse, because HR-7, what
they ended up pushing attacks low income women. So --

HARRIS-PERRY: How so? Explain that.

GONZALEZ-ROJAS: So, HR-7, what it is that it`s taking the Hyde Amendment,
which is a writer to the federal appropriations bill, it has to be
considered by Congress every year, and it makes it, takes it, it puts it on
steroids, it expands it, then codifies it.

So, I`m working and a lot of my colleagues are working with millennials,
with young people, with women of color, with communities of color across
the country to lift the bans that deny abortion coverage. So, to see this
codified would really -- it`s just heartless, target those struggling to
make ends meet and completely out of touch of the lives of women.

HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I`m going interview the lawyer who says
that he is prepared to go to court to defend the fetus. This guy is
fascinating, I`m looking forward to this conversation.


HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, imagine you`re a young woman living in Alabama, not
yet 18 years old and you`re pregnant. You decide to terminate the
pregnancy. Your parents refuse to give you the permission required by law,
or you cannot for whatever reason ask them for permission.

You`re only legal option is to ask your local court to waive the parental
consent requirement. You must claim, and the judge must agree that you
are, quote, "sufficiently mature and well enough informed to intelligently
decide whether to have an abortion." The court must provide an attorney,
if you want one.

The judge can also, if she or he wants to provide another lawyer -- one to
represent the interest of the presentation itself, the embryo or fetus
inside the woman`s uterus. Fetus lawyers, this is not a dystopian fiction.
This is a reality under a new Alabama law that sets aside state funding to
pay attorneys to represent embryos or in the words of Alabama`s legal code,
the interest of the unborn child of the petitioner.

Now, an in Alabama, a minor seeking an abortion can essentially be put on
trial, the fetuses lawyer can cross examine the minor, they can call
witnesses against her, they can drag out the proceedings by asking for more
time to gather evidence, and the local prosecutor can do the same. If the
minor goes through all that and is granted permission to get an abortion,
it`s not necessarily over. The embryo`s lawyer or the local prosecutor or
the minor`s parents can appeal. Just how does an attorney represent the
interests of an embryo or unborn child?

Our next guest has been that attorney and can explain. Joining me from
Montgomery, Alabama, is Julian McPhillips, a civil rights attorney and a
former Democratic Senate candidate.

I am so looking forward to this conversation because I am so interested
that you are a civil right`s lawyer, you do a lot of work around people who
you see as the underdog. So, talk to me about how you see this kind of
representational work. What is it that you`re doing in this case?

JULIAN MCPHILLIPS, ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, the greatest underdog in
life is a baby sitting in a mother`s womb with a mother trying to decide
what to do. I emphasize the words "in life" because there`s a great life
inside the womb, and my influence both scientifically and theologically in
this view that I have. In fact, at five months pregnant, I mean, five
weeks pregnant, there`s great brain waves and great heartbeat and baby, I
believe wants to live. Where Genesis 1:27 were made an image of God.

And so I`m honored to be able to stand up for it, speak out for unborn
children, and to their pregnant mothers in distress.


HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry, I was going to say, I appreciate and value and in
an American context, absolutely believe in the full right you have to have
a set of faith believes that would impact the decisions that you make. But
I guess what I`m concerned about is the idea that, for example, an attorney
working within a state court would be using biblical language as evidence
of a life. I mean, that`s not -- every one agrees that Genesis constitutes
an evidentiary basis.

MCPHILLIPS: Well, famous ACLU attorney Nat Hentholf (ph) of New York,
whose Jewish and also proclaimed agnostic, was very pro-life because he
said the scientific evidence is so overwhelming that he cannot ignore it.

And I look at it from plain light, scientific evidence is incredibly
overwhelming, and this is not just a women`s issue, it`s a men`s issue too
because half the baby`s born are male, and, of course, it takes a father to
be able to make a mother pregnant. So, there`s a lot at stake.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask this then, in this -- in a case of a young
woman, are you cross examining her -- like I guess, the other question is,
so if you`re a young woman and trying to make this decision, why should I
have to answer to you or to a court before I can make a decision about my
own health, my own body?

MCPHILLIPS: Well, let me say first of all, I was appointed in 1998 in the
Alabama Supreme Court upheld the guardian of life (ph) for an unborn child
is done sensitively with great expedition as far as everything is done. It
was all done in about four weeks from the time that the woman was maybe
three months pregnant when she came in, that we had only one other witness
other than her herself, and that was a doctor who came in and showed
figurines and told what life was at stake at that age and stage.

It was done with great sensitivity. It progressed very quickly up to the
Alabama Supreme Court where they upheld the right of the 17-year-old to
have her abortion, without her mother`s, parent`s knowledge of consent.

And there`s so much at stake because, you know, not only can the child be
maimed for life by botched abortion physically and mentally. But in
addition, her parents could be saddled with bills that could go on and on
and on. So, there`s a great deal at stake.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me just, I want to ask one final question though, is
-- are you at all distressed, in the ways that I am about the idea that
there is a separate interest between an individual and something that is
happening in her body that cannot, at that moment, exist outside of her
body? So, the idea for example that I would need a court`s permission for,
for cancer treatment or the court`s permission for, for a surgery that
would remove my hand, like if it`s my body, I guess, I can`t understand why
the state would have to give me permission.

MCPHILLIPS: Well, you wouldn`t have to because I presume you`re well over
17, but someone 17 or younger --

HARRIS-PERRY: A child, yes.

MCPHILLIPS: Especially 16, 15, 14, having an abortion or having a baby
could have great consequences, and at their age and stage, they can`t into
a contract legally into any state anyway. And the rules and some
procedures in Alabama and in most states allow for the guardian to protect
the property interest of an unborn child. And we reason that if the
property interest of an unborn child can be protected, why not the life of
(INAUDIBLE). Without a life, you can`t have property, and as a due process
in both life and property.

So, you know, there`s great interest at stake, and it`s done with great
sensitivity and should be. And in my opinion will always be that. And so,
it may be the forefront of a cutting edge of something, but more and more -
- I mean, we recognize the law of the land in the U.S. Supreme Court
decision, Roe v. Wade, I would say this -- I want to raise the
consciousness of people out there that there`s much at stake, great life
itself. The only problem with pro-choice is absolutely no choice for the
one life that`s really at stake.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Julian McPhillips in Montgomery, Alabama -- I
appreciate your willingness to come on the show and to give us your point
of view and, I also really appreciate some of the civil rights work you`re
doing around police officers.

MCPHILLIPS: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Great deal of appreciation for that.

Up next --

MCPHILLIPS: God bless you. Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the brazen efforts to block a clinic.


HARRIS-PERRY: The big battle for reproductive rights in New Orleans is
being waged over one clinic and it hasn`t been built yet. Planned
Parenthood has been fighting to build a new $4 million clinic that will
offer abortion services, along with a range of other health care, like
cancer screenings and STD testing.

It has faced just about every obstacle imaginable, making us question just
how legal or at least how available abortion really is in New Orleans,

A new story for details some of those obstacles, including
a particularly troubling incident, in which anti-abortion activists
interrupted services and at a Unitarian Universalism Church, because the
church has celebrated the clinic`s ground breaking. Protesters went so far
as to hold up graphic pictures of bloody fetuses against the windows of the
church day care, which was full of small children.

Joining my panel is the author of that piece, Jill Filipovic, who`s senior
political writer for

I just want to put out there, that is the church that I attended in New
Orleans. My kid was, you know, once a young person who may have even been
in that room, although clearly wasn`t when this happened.

So, talk to me about what kind of resistance this clinic has been

clinic has really gotten pushback from every level in New Orleans. You
know, a lot of the folks on the ground and live in New Orleans are very
supportive of it. They realize that Louisiana has a whole slew of health
care challenges and they want this clinic built.

But you`ve seen a lot of folks, especially from the outside, so organized
anti-abortion groups as well as the Catholic Church. The Catholic
archdiocese wrote a letter basically saying anyone who works on this
clinic, any construction worker, contractor, vendor, will be blacklisted
from future church projects if they help build this Planned Parenthood.
You`ve also seen the Louisiana state legislature pass a whole series of
restrictions on abortion access that a lot of pro-choicers in Louisiana are
saying, really give cover to the kind of antiabortion actions that are
happening on the ground in New Orleans.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and it feels to me like this is, this is the other side
of the trap stories we`ve been reporting on Trap Laws far couple of years
now, you have to have facilities that look like this and do this. And so,
in this case here, they`re going to build a facility that would do all of
those things, and they can`t get it built because of this resistance.

GONZALEZ-ROJAS: Yes, and what happens that makes roe not a reality for an
outer reach for the communities that need it, we work a lot in a place like
Texas that, you know, has done a lot of work on. We`re seeing more and
more laws in place to essentially eradicate the clinics in the state. It
makes it harder for women, if a woman is able to get the money,
transportation, take time off of work, get the child care to drive to the
next state or drive miles and miles to the next clinic, for the women we
work with, immigrant women have to pass on immigration check point.

So, these kind of barriers that exist, these regulations in place is the
agenda is to chip away at the right to reproductive care in this country.

CARMON: Strategically it`s so interesting because both the guests that we
had in the previous block and missed and underlined the fact that the anti-
abortion movement in 42 years has not been able to talk women out of
needing abortions. It has not done anything about the demand for
abortions, the choices that people are making in their individual lives.

What is incredibly effective in ending abortion is ending access to safe
abortion. Making it really, really hard to open a clinic to go to a
clinic, to afford an abortion just like HR7, and that takes the choice out
of the woman`s hands and makes it an absolute impossibility, at least a
safe and legal one.

HARRIS-PERRY: Interesting when you use that language of safe. Jill, I`d
be interested in whether or not when you were doing reporting there if
people are talking about this, we heard from the attorney this language
about botched abortions which are extremely unlikely in circumstances of a
medical abortion that, you know, surgical abortion that occurs for the vast
majority of people in the, you know, first trimester.

But when we do start making access harder, it does become more possible.

FILIPOVIC: Absolutely. And I think you`re seeing that in Texas. I also
did some reporting from the Rio Grande Valley and talked to women who said
my friend had an illegal termination. It`s very scary to think about that
happening throughout the United States. You know, Louisiana was voted by
the American life league as the number one pro-life state in the country.
Louisiana also --

HARRIS-PERRY: More than Mississippi?

FILIPOVIC: More than Mississippi. And it`s held that since 2012.

Given it`s sort of long list of anti-abortion laws, that`s probably
accurate. You also look then at the fact that Louisiana has the highest
rates of teen pregnancy, highest rates of STDs. They have a 58 percent
unattended pregnancy rate.

So, you have these groups talking about pro-life, but they`re really not
doing much to help women or to help children in a state that has
astronomical, you know, poor health outcomes, high maternal mortality and
infant mortality.

So, I think really interrogating what that term pro-life means, does it
actually mean supporting the health of women, children, and families, or
does it just mean really attacking abortion rights and making abortion and
women less safe? And that`s what you`re seeing on the ground in Louisiana.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. To me, that is part of the difficulty for me, Robert,
I actually understand why people can have very differing opinions on this
and have a position of belief and faith-based opposition.

But what I do find consistently surprising is the extent to which that
becomes, not for all, but for some and for some of the most vocal, the only
thing they`re talking about relative to women`s health and children`s

TRAYNHAM: The frustrating thing for me, I`m obviously not a female, so,
I`m clearly a minority here, I don`t know -- and I said this during the
commercial break -- how many pro-life women are part of this conversation
to find some type of conversation, to try to find some type of common
ground. I would ask both of you as reporters how many pro-life women did
you speak to in Texas and Louisiana and so forth that influence your
reporting? I mean --

HARRIS-PERRY: Irin hangs out with them. She rides around with them in the
scary vans and stuff.

TRAYNHAM: We`re talking about this over the commercial break, what we saw
in Washington, D.C. a couple of days ago, I think there`s tens of thousands
of women, pro-life women that were marching for life.

And so, the question becomes -- and also point this out, in Texas, in
Louisiana, in Mississippi and so-forth, these are elected officials making
policy. Those elected officials stood before their constituency and I said
I believe this is what I believe, and they were voted in. So therefore,
this is not just people in these --

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but, granted, granted, but I would say -- I would say
you want to be careful with the voted in on people`s rights because I`m
just saying.

I think we all know where many rights might be if they were on the ballot.
Thank you, too, Robert Traynham and Irin Carmon, to Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas,
and to Jill Filipovic.

And, by the way, if you want to know more and read Jill`s reporting about
these efforts to block the Planned Parenthood clinic in New Orleans, go to, that`s right, Cosmo. Her story is online right now and
very much worth the read.

We also want to update you now on the mix of snow and rain impacting a huge
swath of the country this morning. Winter storm warnings are in effect
from Eastern Tennessee to New England. Up to eight inches of snow have
fallen in parts of New York, parts of New England could get up to half a
foot. And another storm system is right behind this one, and could bring
even more snow to the same areas.

MSNBC`s Chris Pollone is in Andover, Massachusetts.

Chris, what`s the latest?

POLLONE: Yes, Melissa, the snow continues to fall here in Andover, about
25 miles north of Boston. But as opposed to last hour when we spoke be
you, now the snow flakes are really small indicating that the air aloft is
starting to get a little bit colder, but it is still snowing heavily here.
Crews are still out treating the roads.

Most of the cars that you see out today, people running errands. Most of
them I`ve noticed are SUVs or small trucks. Interesting, not a lot of
smaller cars on the road because some of the main roads are doing OK right
now, but the side roads are completely snow-covered. Mass state police
reported there have been at least two tractor-trailers which have
jackknifed on the Mass Pike and I-495 which kind of circles Boston. So,
traveling around here is slow.

Logan airport is not too bad at this point. Only about 15 flight
cancellations at this point. So, it hasn`t been too, too bad from an air
standpoint, but this is a fast moving storm. Came in about 5:00, 6:00 in
the morning, should be gone by 6:00, 7:00 tonight. But more snow on the
way as you mentioned, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: And in the meantime, people should definitely stay inside,
stay safe, and watch MSNBC.

Chris Pollone, thanks for your report.

Up next, kissing the ring of the king of Iowa.


HARRIS-PERRY: Representative Steve King has been a Republican congressman
from Iowa since 2003. And while there are many, and I mean many things
that I could say to describe Congressman Steve King -- I`ll offer this,
Steve King is not subtle. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he
works on the immigration and border security subcommittee.

So, do you want to know where Steve King stands on the issue? Well, let`s
start with July 2006, when Iowa Congressman King brought a proposal to
secure the southern border to the House floor. Now his plan involved the
construction of concrete walls with barbed wire, but not just any barbed


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: We could also electrify this wire with the kind
of current that wouldn`t kill somebody, but it would simply be a
discouragement for them to be fooling around of it. We do that with
livestock all the time.


HARRIS-PERRY: You see what he did right there, right that whole we do it
with livestock, so we can do it to people thing.

Then, during an interview with Newsmax in July 2013, the Iowa congressman
had this to say about young undocumented immigrants in America.


KING: For everyone whose a valedictorian, there`s another hundred out
there that they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves the size of
cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the


HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so during a paying event in Iowa last year, DREAMer
activist Erika Andiola decided to confront Representative King about his
cantaloupe comment and his position on President Obama`s Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals, and the conversation quickly took a turn.


KING: Stop a minute. Stop a minute. You`re very good at English. You
know what I`m saying.

ERIKA ANDIOLA, DREAMER ACTIVIST: I was raised in the United States. Of
course, I can speak English.

KING: Right. So, you can understand the English language. So, don`t act
like you don`t, you know.

ANDIOLA: I`m not acting like I don`t.

KING: No, you are.

ANDIOLA: I`m just trying to figure out where you`re coming from.

KING: Because you`re saying something that`s not true.

ANDIOLA: OK, what is that?

KING: As I said, I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you`re not going to tell
me you`re one of them, are you?

ANDIOLA: Do I look like a drug smuggler to you?


HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that happened. And then there are his tweets like the
one the Iowa congressman sent on Tuesday, commenting on one of the Obama
State of the Union guests. A college student who benefitted from DACA, the
congressman tweeted, "#Obama perverts prosecutorial discretion by inviting
a deportable to sit in place of honor at #SOTU with first lady. I should
sit with Alito."

Given his propensity for questionable commentary, you might think Steve
King would be the potential presidential candidate we try to avoid. Well,
you might think, hey, this is probably a guy who I shouldn`t be seen with,
he calls guests of the president "deportable", he insults young women to
their face, he compares people to livestock, maybe just maybe if I`m a
Republican who wants to be my party`s nominee for the president, this is a
guy I should avoid at a public event, right?

No. This morning, Congressman King, along with Citizens United, is hosting
an Iowa Freedom Summit. And among those expected to be there, New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Senator Ted Cruz,
former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick
Santorum, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Texas Governor Rick
Perry, and business executive Carly Fiorina. Also expected to be in
attendance today, DREAMer activists continuing to protest King`s stance on

Joining me now from Des Moines, Iowa, MSNBC political correspondent Kasie

Kasie, how`s it going? You`ve been hanging with King this morning?

spoke earlier this morning, he`s clearly relishing his sort of moment in
the sun here at the beginning of this 2016 Republican`s Iowa caucuses.
They`re still a year away, but this really is in many ways the starting
gun, and in his speech, King said that he thinks that the person who
ultimately is going to become the Republican nominee is here today.

So, of course, as you listed, you have all of these conservative candidates
who have decided to show up. You also have New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie who`s possibly one of the main people from the establishment wing
who`s here. We`re missing Mitt Romney, we`re missing Jeb Bush, we`re
missing also Rand Paul, a potentially key player here in Iowa.

But, look, as you said, this is something where, you know, Republicans
potentially have this as a pitfall for them when it comes to the general
election. And Iowa is a place where in the past Republicans have ended up
getting themselves into trouble. Iowa is where Romney made those remarks
about vetoing the DREAM Act that ultimately came back to haunt him and his
campaign said, afterwards, hey, this is an issue. So we`re going to have
to see how, you know, ultimately being associated with King plays out over
the next, over the coming months.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is the central problem, right, for I guess for
Democrats and Republicans in the sense that the primary constituency, the
folks you`ve got to talk to are going to be further to one side than the
folks you need for a general election. Have Republicans been thinking sort
of in that longer term general election sense or do you see them at this
point still thinking in the short game, Iowa, primaries, win in that

HUNT: Well, look, you obviously have to win the nomination to win the
presidency. That`s the tactic Mitt Romney took when he ran here in 2012
the way he did. I think you`re seeing an interesting counterpart from Jeb
Bush who has been sort of running against that if anything, he gave a
speech out in San Francisco that struck some more moderate notes and
essentially said you know what, we have to run a different kind of campaign
than we run in the past.

So, ultimately, we`ll see which one wins, while you have always a lot of
noise from the conservative activists on the one side, traditionally, the
party`s actually nominated the establishment favorite.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, thank you to MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt in Des Moines, Iowa.
Have a good time out there.

And up next, the hot mess that is America`s most popular sport.


HARRIS-PERRY: This week, one of the nation`s favorite spectators sport
turned into a spectacle, all because of the football itself. NFL announced
Friday that it`s executive vice president Jeff Pash and the lawyer Ted
Wells are leading the investigation into the footballs the New England
Patriots used during last week`s AFC championship game against the
Indianapolis Colts.

So far, the league says evidence suggests under-inflated footballs were
used in the first half of the game, but not in the second half. From the
moment Colts linebacker D`Qwell Jackson intercepted one of quarterback Tom
Brady`s passes in the second quarter, the Patriots footballs were called
into question. According to Newsday, Jackson gave the ball to a member of
the Colt`s equipment staff who noticed the balls seemed under-inflated.
And thus began ballgazi.

NFL regulations stipulate the game football must maintain air pressure
between 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch. According to ESPN, the league
found that 11 of the Pats` 12-game footballs were under-inflated by two
pounds per square inch. NFL rules also require footballs to remain
unaltered after officials have checked and approved them before the game.
Anyone who breaks these rules could face a fine of up to $25,000 and other
disciplinary action.

So, the question remains, how did this happen?

The first person the media turned to for an answer was Patriots` coach Bill
Belichick whose been an NFL coach for 40 seasons and has 222 victories on
board as a head coach. But during Thursday`s press conference, he told
reporters he was shocked to hear about the situation on Monday morning, and
he doesn`t know what happened. And maybe Tom Brady might.


BILL BELICHICK, PATRIOTS HEAD COACH: Tom`s personal preferences on his
footballs are something that he can talk about in much better detail and
maybe information than I could possibly, possibly provide. I could tell
you that in my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player,
staff member about football air pressure. That is not a subject that I
have ever brought up.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, the coach does not talk. Repeat -- does not talk to Tom
Brady about his preferences for his footballs.

But after what seemed like a plot to the key player, all eyes turned to
Brady who had his own press conference later that day.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: I didn`t, you know, have any, you know, I
didn`t alter the ball in any many. I like them the way I like them, 12.5,
to me that`s a perfect grip for the football. I have no knowledge of
anything, I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing of any --

REPORTER: Are you comfortable that nobody did anything wrong?

BRADY: Yes, I`m very comfortable saying that.


HARRIS-PERRY: Tom Brady has no knowledge of anything, but with the Super
Bowl now just eight days away, all eyes are on the NFL`s investigation.
And in the statement released yesterday, the league said, "The playing
rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We
take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and was fully
investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is
ongoing, will be thorough and objective is being pursued expeditiously."

Joining me now is Mike Pesca, host of "Slate`s" "The Gist".

OK, what`s more likely to negatively impact NFL viewership? Harboring men
who brutally beat their wives and girlfriends or deflated footballs?

MIKE PESCA, HOST, SLATE`S "THE GIST": Oh, deflated footballs will increase
viewership because it`s a controversy to take our minds off things that
really matter. But I don`t even think that`s what`s going on there.

There are some people who say the NFL loves this controversy. I don`t
really think they do, but it is, of course, silly, silly controversy. Not
that this wasn`t some rule-breaking, I would think of it in the sport of
hockey, players sometimes curve their sticks too much. It gives them an
advantage, and there is a penalty for that. It is a two-minute penalty.
It is literally called a minor penalty.

And that`s pretty much what`s going on here, except you have the Super
Bowl, all people want is a TV show, everyone knows who Tom Brady is. And
for a story, to be a great story, it has to have certain element like
characters you recognize, an emotional component, and this that has all.
And plus, we get to say balls back and forth.

HARRIS-PERRY: Balls, balls, funny balls jokes. But, look, let me ask you,
if it doesn`t having in else, because it may be a minor penalty, one of the
things I think that Americans kind of get out of sports is to believe this
is, OK, this is the one place where wherever the other ugliness is,
patently racist mascots, you know, domestic violence, head injuries.

But when you show up on the field, it is just pure even ground, gladiators
going at it the, we`re watching real competition, and if even a small thing
is off, then you`re like oh well now, now it`s the whole thing is gone.

PESCA: Now, society might be corrupt, yes. Very comfortable to have that

And I think that this, in all seriousness, I think that, I started thinking
about the Ray Rice case and I think it raises a question which is, what do
we want out of football? What do we want out of sports?

We want competition entertainment, but it`s clear that a good percentage of
us want virtue. And sports are incapable of delivering that. Maybe the
NFL singularly so.

But if we look for it as something other than rules, which are generally
adhered to and play between the lines which goes to meritocracy, not who
your dad was, then sports are great respite. But if we look for all that
is righteous and all that is true, we get to this over sanctimonious point
that we have now about the deflationary sciences.

HARRIS-PERRY: What`s worse, deflating your footballs or my team, my poor
beloved team the Saints, our defense, you know, bounty?

PESCA: Yes, except that, it`s all tied up because there`s a big Roger
Goodell criticism in all of them. I think Roger Goodell over-punished the
Saints without sufficient cause, especially the head coach and other
defensive coordinator probably did overstep the lines.

But the same thing, Goodell sees his job as being the arbiter of
righteousness as opposed to the commissioner of the NFL, the guys who
generally get his rules straight. Because he said I will be the man who
enforces righteousness, we get the wording and phrasing there, which if
there was a font called handwritten (ph), it would have been written in the
hand written font.

And really, I don`t understand why the NFL except for the position they put
themselves in can`t come out and say, we`re going to look at this, but you
really do need to know, this isn`t the biggest deal in the world. Someone
could give a little perspective, although, it is leading literally leading
the nightly newscasts on Thursday, in a way that Aaron Rogers murderer was
not mentioned in the newscast. So, maybe they do like the attention.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Stay with me, there`s one more little thing I
want to ask you about when we get back.

But, first, I do want to note the passing of a baseball legend, Ernie
Banks, a Hall of Fame shortstop known as Mr. Cub. He died last night at
the age of 83. Now, Banks was the first African American player for the
Chicago Cubs, eight in the majors overall. And Banks was named National
League MVP in 1952 and 1959. He received the Presidential Medal of freedom
in 2013.

And this morning President Obama and the first lady released a statement
that says in part, quote, "Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh,
and his team is behind him, and Mr. Class -- "Mr. Cub" -- is ready to play,



BRADY: I don`t believe so. I mean, I feel like I always played within the
rules and would never do anything to break the rule. I believe in fair
play and respect the league and everything that they are doing to try and
create a very competitive playing field for all the NFL teams. It`s a very
competitive league. You know, every team is trying to do the best they can
to win every week. I believe in fair play.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addressing the media
on Thursday and answering the specific question, is Tom Brady a cheater?

We are back with Mike Pesca with more on the ever evolving football story
that has everybody sitting on edge in a funny way.

And important, you know, we spent a lot of time over the past weeks
reporting on head injuries, but when I talk to parents who are still off to
making the choice for their son to participate, they say, well, yes, I know
it`s a real possibility, but football does something else, sportsmanship,
team you know, self -- sort of depriving yourself for the good of the team
and all of that.


HARRIS-PERRY: And I wonder if part of the scandal like this, kind of
ginned this up, if that`s not true, really, what are we doing here?

PESCA: Right. So, that`s definitely true, but I believe in those
arguments, by the way. It`s not that sportsmanship can`t be gotten
somewhere else, and my son plays on the chess team and they learn great
sportsmanship there. He`s 7. If in three years, he wants to play
football, maybe four or five, I`d let him and I`d supervise it. And, of
course, you know, 10 years ago we knew nothing about head injuries.

And now, we are entering an era where we can deal with them better, maybe
the kids will be safer, I do question the NFL`s assurances that their heads
up tackling program will handle that. But, you`re right, there`s a
mythology about football, but it`s not -- as in most mythologies, there are
a more than a kernel of truth. Football is a great sport. It`s a physical
sport. Do people say, hey, just play soccer or baseball, you know, for a
certain kind of kid, perhaps a large lumbering child who wants to be
physical, you could be a lineman. You know, most positions don`t rely on
speed or hand-eye coordination, like the other sports. So, I know so many
people who say that of all the sports they played. Football shaped them,
but then again, some people say it was the chess club.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, I think you ought to do chess and football. I
am into chess.


HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Mike Pesca. And you should not cheat at either
one or under inflate --

PESCA: Yes, an under-flated ruff (ph) is terrible.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a hot mess.

PESCA: Yes, you got PSI.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
watching. I`m going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Jeremy Scahill is going to be here for his take on the blockbuster movie,
"American Sniper."

But right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".

And, in for Alex today is Ayman Mohyeldin. Nice to see you, Ayman.


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