The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/13/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
There are a few problems in American public policy that cannot be explained a little better with help from the great allegory that is “Three‘s Company.”
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
Imagine if you will that our roommates in this allegorical case are Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Barack Obama, and your adorable but unemployed and desperately broke cousin, who in this case looks a little bit like Suzanne Somers.
OK. So, technically it is four‘s a company, not three‘s company.
Maybe Mrs. Roper lives them or something, whatever. We give a break.
In any case, these are the roommates, and the roommates‘ problem is that their rent is too high. They can no longer afford the place that they are all staying in. It was all right when they moved in, but the rent has been going up and up and up. And now, it‘s just too darn high. They cannot afford the rent anymore.
So, roommates John Boehner and Paul Ryan go away together and come up with a plan for dealing with the too darn high rent. They say their plan is that roommate Paul Ryan, roommate Barack Obama and roommate John Boehner should pay less rent than what they are paying now, and the difference should be paid by your cousin. They say that‘s their plan for making the rent cheaper.
Does that actually make the rent cheaper? No, no, it does not. But as far as they‘re concerned, it does. If nobody is really looking out for your cousin‘s interests, then you‘re sort of getting away with saying that it did. Thank you “Three‘s Company.”
But that is what the Republican budget does about health care. It doesn‘t reduce health care costs at all. It just makes cuz pay for more of those costs and thereby calls it cheaper for everybody else. It looks at the problem of rising health care costs over time and says the government should stop paying its share of those costs, and let poor people and old people and disabled people—let them just pay more for it on their own. Sorry, cuz.
That‘s how Republicans deal with health costs—or rather how they do not deal with health costs at all. And that rather brutal but true point was one of the many brutal points made today by President Obama in his big, perhaps unexpectedly satisfying speech on the budget and spending, and what is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat in America today?
Now, as I say, I think this point about Republicans and health care was a brutal point. I demonstrated this brutality by putting in the context of “Three‘s Company.” Listen to how the president did it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Now, here the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clear. Their plan essentially lowers the government‘s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government‘s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He could not have sounded more genial and professorial when he said it. It could not have sounded any less blunt. But the point he was making there was both blunt and confrontational and important, and it needed to be said. And that‘s what the speech was like today.
Whether or not you saw the president‘s speech, my advice to you is to read it at some point. It‘s not very long, it only prints out to eight or nine pages long. But you can actually print it out from our Web site tonight, we posted it at MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com. We got the full text of it there.
If you did not see the speech and your first contact with it is going to be reading it. You will think when you‘re reading it that when he gave the speech, he must have been breathing fire and pounding the podium. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was utterly sedate. It look like a Rotary luncheon address.
But the message was less rotary and more roundhouse. That point about the Republican‘s plan for making health care cheaper by making old people and poor people and disabled people just pay more for it, that is a blunt confrontational point and it is a good point.
The president‘s next point on that was that the whole point of health reform is to bring down the cost of health care. Republicans are still attacking that, even as they have no plan of their own on health care costs. That is a good point that is both true and has been sorely missing from all the political complaints about health reform.
The president made the point today that the Paul Ryan proposal to privatize Medicare kills Medicare. That intrinsic to the whole idea of Medicare is that it is an entitlement, that is it exists as a safety net that everybody can defend on it. Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid are entitlements for a reason, and by the way, they work. That was a good point from the president today and one that has been missing from the debate over budgets and deficits.
Amid the nonsense arithmetic-free rhetoric about deficits and debt, the president made the point today that historically, you know, it makes sense to run deficits when the country is at war or when the country is in a recession. But that when you are not at war or in a recession, you should aim to get back in balance. In other words, deficits themselves are not evil. They have a purpose. They should be used strategically.
That, again, is a good point and one that has been sorely missing from the debate about deficits and debt and the budget. The president made the point today that after the huge Reagan deficits for the 1980s, we actually did get back to balance in the 1990s. We even got back into surplus.
He made the point that America‘s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. Quote, “We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track,” he said, to becoming completely debt-free.
And we were prepared for the retirement of the baby boomers, but then what happened? After Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, he lost, we lost our way in the decade that followed. Yes, bingo!
Mr. Obama continued, “We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program. But we didn‘t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problems worse with trillions of dollars in tax cuts—tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, tax cuts that will force us to borrow $500 million every year over the next decade.”
“By the time I took office,” Mr. Obama said, “We once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a baby boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office,” he said, “our projective deficit annually was more than $1 trillion. And on top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession.”
And what do you have to do in a recession? Like he said, before, right, earlier in the speech, in a recession, you are supposed to be able to run a temporary deficit in order to keep the economy ticking. Having to do that itself makes sense, he made the case for that today.
But having to do that while starting from an already catastrophic fiscal position that George W. Bush left the country in, that‘s what does not make sense. That is the disaster. That is true. And that‘s a good point.
And that has been missing from the debate about deficits and budget. Just naming that the Bush tax cuts were unpaid for, that the Bush tax cuts exploded the deficit—just naming that, frankly, is a hallelujah moment. That is a victory for math. Cutting tax revenue reduces tax revenue. I know, I know, it‘s barely even math. It‘s almost an axiom.
But at this point, it is a point that has been almost from the debate. And the president saying it today is a good point, and one that really should re-center the way that people talk about this stuff.
Mr. Obama today confessed to signing an extension of those tax cuts this past December. But he again said that he didn‘t think it was a good idea. He only did it under duress in order to stop something worse from happening that the Republicans were going to force.
Will he let those tax cuts get renewed again? Mr. President?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can‘t afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.
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MADDOW: I refuse to renew them again, cut that out and stick it to the fridge. Beyond nailing the last Republican president, though, for the disastrous impact of his unpaid for tax cuts, President Obama today nailed the Republican Party for proposing even more of the same, fiscally irresponsible, arithmetically challenge tax cut nonsense.
“House Republicans,” he said, “are calling for $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.” “Think about that,” he said, “in the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that‘s who needs to pay less taxes?”
Again, when you read this speech, you would think he would be fire-breathing here, right? I mean, he‘s making fire-breathing points. He was not fire-breathing. He could not have been more calm, cool and collected.
He was doing math out loud—math out loud. But it is devastating math. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That‘s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that‘s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That‘s not right, and it‘s not going to happen as long as I‘m president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that was as wild as the crowd went during the whole speech.
Again, this does not sound like barn burning stuff. But the point President Obama is making here, is exactly the point that the president‘s supporters have been waiting for him to make. You almost have to telestrate the arithmetic while he does this.
But if you are willing to do it, the impact of what he‘s saying really can hit you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK, stop. So, a $200,000 tax cut. OK, keep going.
(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That‘s paid for by asking, 33 seniors –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK, wait, wait. Thirty-three seniors—do we have an icon for seniors or something? Yes! OK, 33 seniors. OK, keep going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That‘s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Freeze. Stop it. Thirty-three seniors pay $6,000 each. The math—OK, finish it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: That‘s not right, and it‘s not going to happen as long as I‘m president.
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MADDOW: What he‘s saying is that in order to get his $200,000 tax cut as one of the richest people in the country, right, the way Republicans want to finance that is by extracting 6 grand from 33 different old people.
He is right about that. That is a good point. That is exactly what the Republicans are trying to do.
They are claiming to reduce the deficit enough to afford this kind of thing for rich people by squeezing that money out of old people and disabled people and other people who this country has historically made a commitment to take care of.
Now, whether or not you can tell us straight out in your head while he‘s saying it, it may not have hit like a ton of bricks when he said it, but the president here is making the case that the Republicans‘ proposal for America is transferring resources and money from people who really do not have it to spare in order to give a ton of those resources and money to people who are already rich. Good point.
And because that is a transfer of resources, and not a saving of resources, it not only isn‘t courageous or brave or serious, or any of the other things that the Republicans are getting called right now on the Beltway media. It‘s not brave or courageous. It‘s not even those things. It‘s not even a real plan to reduce the deficit.
Oh, and the president said that, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There‘s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending $1 trillion on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don‘t think there‘s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don‘t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That‘s not a vision of the America I know.
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MADDOW: It is about transferring money from politically powerless people, who don‘t have much, to rich people, and claiming that‘s about the deficit when it is plainly not. That is not serious or courageous. In fact, it is radical and it is something that does not resonate with American values—so said President Obama today.
Whatever you heard about this speech, whether or not you believe the way that I am describing it, whether or not you watched it today, I never say on this show—print out and read this thing, or very rarely say it. In this case, if you have a second, print it out and read it. Print it out and keep it around, so if you have minute, spend a few minutes reading it.
If you are a liberal or if you are a centrist, if you are a person who voted for President Obama, if you were worried that President Obama would not confront the Republicans on what they are trying to do with the economy and instead would triangulate against it—Mr. Obama did not do that.
If you were worried the President Obama would sell out Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and say we can‘t forward them any more, like the Republicans wanted him to say—Mr. Obama did not do that.
If you were worried he would let the Republicans and the Beltway media get away with this bogus assertion that they make constantly that Social Security is causing the deficit, when it is not—he did do not. He, in fact, called that out as bogus today.
If you were worried that Mr. Obama would follow the Republican line that deficits themselves are always evil, that he would ignore the fact that Republicans are the ones who create the worst ones and at the worst times, Mr. Obama emphatically did not do that.
I am a liberal. I am a liberal, and, therefore, I am a professional worrier about Democrats talking smack about what liberals value, and about Democrats trying to sound like Republicans, and about Democrats who are afraid to confront Republicans and who instead eat Republicans‘ framing about what‘s wrong with the country, in particular what‘s wrong about the economy and what are available options are.
You know, coming out of this last deal on the budget that President Obama made with the Republicans on Friday night, frankly this president gave liberals reason to worry all over again.
But today, if this is the start of 2012, if this is how the rest of this term is going to go, leading up to his re-election effort, if this is how President Obama is going to run for re-election, if this is the way he‘s going to call Republicans out for what they‘re for and explain what‘s really going on in the economy and speak up for his own values and explain to the country why he believes Democrats values are the right ones on this stuff—then as a liberal, I am less worried than I was.
My only worry really at this point is why did he give this speech at 1:30 on a Wednesday and sort of whisper it. With a little fine-tuning, I think this could be a barn burner. I could imagine this one in a stadium over and over and over again.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can‘t afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.
Let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in the society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “We cannot know right now whether the steadfastness of Obama‘s rhetoric in defending core liberal and Democratic ideals will be matched by equal resoluteness in practice when the battles heat up and the temptations to make deals and jettison core priorities intensifies. But Obama did tell us in clear unequivocal moral terms what he thinks it means to be a Democrat, and those who have been waiting for him to do so should be quite satisfied by what they heard.”
I think that is absolutely right. That was Greg Sargent writing at “The Washington Post” today about the president‘s very important speech. It is a peculiarly lefty thing to be simultaneously delighted and also worried. But the relationship between Democrats and liberals is way more froth and way for complicated than it usually gets credit for.
Why today will go down as a benchmark day in the Obama presidency and for the relationship between liberals and their party. That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One vision has been presented and championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives, and embraced by several of their party‘s presidential candidates. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we‘ve known, certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we‘ve known throughout our history. A 70 percent cut in clean energy, a 25 percent cut in education, a 30 percent cut in transportation, cuts in college Pell grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That‘s the proposal.
These aren‘t the kinds of cuts you make when you‘re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These are the kinds of cuts that tell us we can‘t afford the America that I believe in, and I think you believe in. I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic.
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MADDOW: “These are not the cuts you make when you‘re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget,” he said. So why would you find them then? Implying these are the kinds of things you do when you‘re trying to fundamentally change the country. In other words, it‘s not about the budget.
The president also today called out the Republican‘s plan for claiming to reduce the deficit while also giving away another $1 trillion tax cut to rich people, which means that the president committed math live on television—very dangerous.
The president‘s brushback in criticism of the Republicans today was, I think, stronger than most people expected. Does that buy him from his own party, his supporters, more faith that his assurances that he will defend and protect Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security even as he said today that they need reform?
Joining us now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.
It‘s great to have you back, Senator. Thanks very much of your time.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Thanks, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: I saw yesterday, Greg Sargent at “The Washington Post” published your letter to the president advocating on Medicare, asking him “to protect America‘s seniors and oppose any attempts to dismantle Medicare.” Did what the president say today make the kind of commitment you were looking to hear?
BROWN: Yes, exactly. Within 24 hours, more than 20 senators joined me in that letter. I announced it yesterday at caucus, the Democratic Caucus, at 2:00 in the afternoon or so. And already, about a couple dozen senators have signed on because it‘s fundamental in our party that we believe that Medicare should be a public program, not a voucher program—that we‘ve seen this game before, where Republicans do huge tax cuts for upper income people and pay for those tax cuts by cutting Medicare. It‘s what—it‘s what Newt Gingrich tried to do in 1995 when he said Medicare should wither in the vines. And you can go back 30 years before that, when Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly opposed the creation of Medicare because they didn‘t want a big program.
But Medicare has brought up—the poverty rate in the country among seniors is very low. Ninety-nine percent of seniors have insurance now, and Medicare was founded in 1965, only half of seniors had any kind of close to comprehensive health insurance. So, it‘s been a terrific success.
And this crowd—that the right wing in this country again wants to dismantle Medicare. They try every decade or so. We‘ve got to beat it back. And the president said exactly the right thing today.
MADDOW: There was one portion of the speech toward the end that I wrote—when I knew I was going to talk about tonight, I wrote in the margin of the speech as I was reading along with him, wiggle room? Ask Senator Brown.
The president said, “There are those who said we shouldn‘t make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security out of fear that any talk about change to these programs will usher in the sort of radical steps that House Republicans have proposed.” The president then said he understood those fears but there have to be some changes to those programs.
When he talks about the need for them to be changes to those programs, is that wiggle room that you worry about?
BROWN: No, I don‘t. I‘ll give you an example of what he wants that I think makes perfect sense. There‘s—we have a new kind of pharmaceutical in this country called biologics, relatively new. They‘re pretty expensive. They save lives. They often—because they are so expensive, they often do not have a generic substitute, so that there‘s no competition in selling of these drugs.
The president has fought hard, and tried during the health care debate, I worked with him on that, and we‘re going to renew that fight to bring generic competition with these biologics and pharmaceuticals so they‘re more broadly on the market. It will mean huge savings for taxpayers. It will mean huge savings for seniors. It will mean strengthening the Medicare program, because you can get the same kind of help from pharmaceuticals and the same kind of medicine without paying such a huge price for it. That‘s just one example.
MADDOW: Let me ask you a specific Senate question about how some of those specific types of policies are going to be worked out. Why does the Senate keep separating off into these gangs? These bipartisan even split non-committees like this gang of six that‘s supposed to be doing work on deficit reduction proposals right now.
I mean, Democrats control the Senate. Why do work like this in a 50/50 split with Republicans, instead of just doing it through the normal Senate processes?
BROWN: I think it‘s kind of become a Senate tradition that groups of people work on things. And that‘s fine in a formal way. But ultimately, we need to work together as Democrats, not to—I would certainly work bipartisanly, but on sound principles like Medicare and Social Security and Pell grants as the president pledged to defend—on issues like that that are really, protecting Planned Parenthood and what conservatives tried to do last week, to defund a group, if you will, that provides primary care to 3 million women in this country—you know, we stand on principle there, we fight together on those things.
Some of these preliminary working out of issues is fine. But, in the end, the president needs to stand strong, as he‘s doing starting today, I think, on these fundamental Democratic principles, that there‘s huge consensus in this country. They‘re the mainstream values of the Democratic Party, but they‘re also the mainstream values in this country—opportunity for kids in college, opportunity for kids with Head Start, Medicare, Social Security, safe drinking water, clean air, those kinds of things.
Civil rights are what this country stands for, and what those of us sort of progressive Democrats are proudest of in our party.
MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio—thanks very much for your time tonight. Nice to see you.
BROWN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Now joining us is Dean Baker, economist, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Dr. Baker, appreciate you joining us tonight.
DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.
MADDOW: When I heard the president say that Social Security is not causing the deficit, and it makes sense to run deficits in times of economic downturn or during wartime, when he said that health reform is all about the budget because it brings down costs and costs are the real problem—when the president said those things, they sounded to me like straight talk attacking the dumb Beltway wisdom on the economy.
But you are the economist here. Did you react to those things in the same way?
BAKER: Mostly. Well, let me just give the negatives and then I‘ll come back with the positives.
The negative is we do still have 8.8 percent unemployment. That should be front and center on everyone‘s agenda. Remember, even George W. Bush signed a stimulus bill back when the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.
So, getting jobs in the economy really should be front and center. Unfortunately, we have this deficit obsession that the Washington Beltway crowd has been pushing.
And on that score, I agree with most of what President Obama said. It‘s absolutely right with Social Security, that‘s not contributing to the deficit, that‘s by law. It can‘t contribute to the deficit.
Medicare and health care, he made the point exactly right. The problem is: we have to constrain health care costs. The problem is the private sector health care system, not the Medicare and Medicaid programs. And he talked about constraining costs on those programs, but not going the route that Representative Ryan wants to go privatizing them, which would send costs through the roof.
So, he made a lot of very good points there that I did appreciate.
MADDOW: So, you feel like—just to summarize, that the president made points that you appreciated him hearing, you think he rebutted a lot of the work stuff that you‘ve seen coming from the right. But from your perspective, what he need to make a further case for is more stimulus, more government action to create jobs?
BAKER: Absolutely. I mean, to my mind, it really is unconscionable just sit back and have people go, oh, we‘re worried about the deficit 10, 15, 20 years unite when we have 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the labor force altogether. They aren‘t the ones who made the mistakes.
We have to remember, the people who are suffering right, it was Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, it was the people setting policy here in Washington that made the mistakes. Not the people out of work suffering.
MADDOW: The president talked today about tax rates, about how tax rates for the richest people in the country are at a 50-year low. He mocked the Republican budget plan as unserious, for trying to give another $1 trillion worth of tax cuts to wealthy people. But the overall deficit reduction approach he‘s taking is still less about taxes and more about reducing spending over time.
Do you expect progressive economists and liberals more broadly, his supporters, to push him on that ratio of spending and taxes?
BAKER: Yes. Well, the number he came out with was he said that he wanted to have $3 in spending cuts, interest rates and spending cuts, for every $1 in tax increase. And you are sort of hard pressed to say, well, what‘s been the big explosion in spending here? I mean, this is what the Republicans jump on.
And the reality was, there was an increased spending associated with the recession. We spend more on unemployment insurance, other programs like that because of the recession. There hasn‘t been this, you know, crazed rush of spending.
Now, there certainly are areas we could cut—and I would highlight the military budget. You know, that‘s certainly in the area, and President Obama did propose some cuts. I‘d like to see more there.
But this idea that you have to have $3 cuts in spending for every $1 in tax increase, I just don‘t know why—particularly that‘s your starting position. Again, that‘s one of the things that has us all worried because again, we know, even in our dreams, we‘re not going to get what President Obama proposed.
That‘s a starting position, we‘re getting something less. So, that is cause for concern.
MADDOW: That point about whether this is the starting position or whether this is the ending position, I‘m seeing emerge today among a lot of economic commentators from the left. That what he talked about would be a good move forward for the country and the hope now is this could be a strong bargaining position, rather than a place he will move right from.
Dean Baker, economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research—it‘s good to have you here tonight. Thank you.
BAKER: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: “Debunktion Junction” coming up later in the show tonight. I can tell you from here, it‘s a doozy.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: True or false? House Republicans just forced President Obama to cut the budget this year by nearly $39 billion.
From House Speaker John Boehner‘s blog, quote, “The agreement will immediately cut $38.5 billion in federal spending.” Is that true or is that false?
False. Despite appearing in a post that Mr. Boehner‘s blog entitled key facts, and despite being picked up by major media outlets, including the “L.A. Times” and our friends at CNN, Mr. Boehner‘s claim to be cutting nearly $39 billion immediately is false. F-A-L-S-E, false, false, false. Seriously.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office today reported on what the dollars and cents are exactly in this deal we‘ve all heard so much about. The deal according to the CBO is not for $39 billion in cuts immediately. It is for $39 billion over all sorts of different time frames that nobody can explain.
The amount that‘s actually expected to be saved immediately as Mr. Boehner says, say by the end of this budget year for being generous, it‘s not $38.5 billion but rather this many dollars. It takes more digit to type that out, but it‘s a lot less money. That‘s an M not a B. That‘s more than 99 percent less money.
So, when John Boehner says the House is cutting $3.5 billion immediately, what he really means is, they‘re cutting less than 1 percent of that figure between now and the end of the fiscal year.
True or false—this was an installment of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s “Debunktion Junction.”
True and false. In other words, sort of.
John Boehner‘s claim about immediate spending cuts was, in fact, just debunked right here. However, the Debunktion did not occur at the junction. This was pre-junction Debunktion—a full blown full on Debunktion Junction starring Senator James Inhofe, a prop plane, our parent company and the “Associated Press.” That is the aforementioned doozy.
The audio alone is enough to stay up for even if you‘re already sleepy.
It‘s coming up in just a moment.
MADDOW: When I say Kevin Bacon, what do you think of? Do you think of the accomplished actor from films like “Apollo 13,” “Sleepers,” “Mystic River”? Do you think of six degrees of Kevin Bacon? The pop culture trivia meme about how everybody is connected to everybody else by six degrees or less.
Kevin Bacon did nothing to have his name and reputation supplanted by that meme. But nevertheless, the meme got to be bigger that he is.
The same thing is now happening to Arizona‘s junior senator, the heretofore pretty anonymous Republican Senator Jon Kyl. Not John Cornyn, Jon Kyl. I man, Cornyn, no Kyl. Cornyn is also a Republican senator, also has some Y‘s in his name, sometimes hared to keep track, or at least it was hard to keep track before this week, when Jon Kyl became a very famous Internet meme.
Chris Hayes talked about this on “THE LAST WORD” last night. Since then, it has become even more huge.
After saying on the floor of the Senate that well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion, even though in fact 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion, Senator Jon Kyl‘s office clarified his remark by saying what the senator said was not intended to be a factual statement.
What? Go to Search.Twitter.com and type in hashtag “not intended to be a factual statement,” and then see if you can keep up with the people writing new jokes about this meme every hour.
Por ejemplo, Jon Kyl pets dogs in the wrong direction, making everyone uncomfortable. Not intended to be a factual statement.
Or, Jon Kyl believes that anchor babies are a threat, but is still wondering how an anchor gets pregnant. Not intended to be a factual statement.
Or Jon Kyl‘s solution to Somali piracy is to just aim for the parrots.
Not intended to be a factual statement.
Steven Colbert started this whole thing about Jon Kyl. It is now officially out of control.
It is starting to look like Jon Kyl will have to change his name if he ever wants to be known as anything other than the not intended to be a factual statement guy ever again.
Here‘s the question, though, the serious question about all of this. With abortion rights being more aggressively rolled back this year than in any year since Roe versus Wade was decided, with at least 28 states moving this year on legislation to restrict access to abortion, with unprecedented waiting periods and time limits, and criminal punishments and forcing doctors to read scripts by state legislatures, and women being forced to sit through anti-abortion lectures by anti-abortion activists before they can go to their doctor, and everything else you can imagine, the thing most closely resembling a national pushback against that has been a defense of Planned Parenthood getting federal funds. A defense that attacks the ridiculous Republican lie that Planned Parenthood does way more abortions that they actually do.
And that defense is correct. Ninety-seven percent of what Planned Parenthood does is something other than abortion. And there‘s also no federal funding for their abortion services or anybody else‘s. That‘s all true.
But if that is the character of the pushback, who is actually standing up for abortion rights? For women to have access to abortion?
Politically, what would standing up for that look like right now?
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, the woman at the center of the storm, joins us tonight for “The Interview.” That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think Senator Kyl, I believe, went on the floor and said that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood‘s money was used for abortion and 10 percent for health care. It‘s the reverse.
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Planned Parenthood is about public health and about prevention.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: More than 90 percent of care provided by Planned Parenthood is preventative.
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: And it ranges from cholesterol management and diabetic management.
BOXER: And, again, let‘s understand something else. And let‘s not confuse the American people—the Hyde Amendment governs this program. Not one single dime can be used for abortion.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Democratic women senators coming to the defense of Planned Parenthood last week just as Republicans were threatening to shut down the entire federal government because they wanted to defund it.
Joining us now for “The Interview” is the woman at the center of this particular storm, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Ms. Richards, thanks very much for your time tonight.
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Sure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Your organization is about as under attack as a single entity can be in America?
RICHARDS: I guess right.
MADDOW: Yes. Regardless, I mean, of what else it is you do as an abortion provider, you are presumably always under attack from the anti-abortion movement, both the mainstream political protest arm of that movement as well as the fringe of it. Earlier this year, you were the subject of one of those fake prostitute hidden camera sting operations that are popular conservative kids these days, and now Republicans nearly shutting down the government because they wanted that badly to defund you.
Is there a precedent for this? Is this business as usual and we‘re all just noticing?
RICHARDS: I‘ve never seen anything like this in my life. And actually, reading “The New York Times” cover story this Sunday, to me, said it all, when you see the speaker of the House, the third most powerful man in America, literally phoning the president, the head of the free world, and we‘re on the verge of shutting down the federal government over whether or not Planned Parenthood can continue to provide pap smears to women. This is something that is just out of the realm of anything we‘ve ever seen in America, and I think it shows how completely out of touch Speaker Boehner is with the health care needs of women in this country.
MADDOW: But why do you think that Republicans chose you when they were looking for—clearly, they were looking for some sort of culture war fight in this funding standoff. But they didn‘t pick gay marriage. They didn‘t pick school vouchers, necessarily. They picked you. They picked Planned Parenthood.
Why do you think they did?
RICHARDS: I think—look, I think there was an extreme element of the Republican Party and they are holding hostage a whole host of things. And that‘s—I actually think it‘s an enormous political mistake, what we are seeing repeatedly, hundreds of thousands of women and men have been writing in to Planned Parenthood since the House tried to eliminate services of Planned Parenthood. And particularly young people all across the country are saying, how could this be happening?
We heard the statements by Glenn Beck the other day, outrageous statements about who goes to Planned Parenthood. We had people posting to our Facebook tomorrow, posted to our Facebook today saying, I don‘t think he understands that thousands of military servicemen go to Planned Parenthood when docs on base can‘t see them.
I just think it‘d just show how completely out of touch they are with the health care needs of American women, average folks.
MADDOW: Because so much of the criticism of your organization during this whole fight has been not true, weird distortion and exaggeration ala Glenn Beck and Jon Kyl, a couple things are developing among your defenders. They‘re saying, no, really abortion is only a tiny fraction of what Planned Parenthood does, and they‘re saying, no, they don‘t use any taxpayer money for abortion. Those things, of course, are true.
The thing that no one really seems to be saying is, hey, it‘s also really important that Planned Parenthood is able to provide access to abortion. Do you think that is emerging as a political problem here, that people—there aren‘t enough people standing up specifically for the abortion rights side of this fight?
RICHARDS: Well, I think folks are very familiar with Planned Parenthood that we provide full reproductive health care in America. And that‘s really important.
But I think what is important, too, Rachel, that folks understand that literally what the House of Representatives and what Speaker Boehner are trying to do is not end abortion services. They are trying to eliminate birth control and cancer screenings for women. I just think that‘s—that shows how extreme these measures are.
And I actually think—I have to say, I think even Senator Kyl‘s statement the other day has done more to educate people about the array of services available at Planned Parenthood health centers than anything we ever could have done. It‘s—but it‘s these kinds of misstatements that I think have really galvanized people across the country in defense of Planned Parenthood, in defense of women‘s reproductive health care.
MADDOW: On that specific issue of abortion, though, specifically really with that issue in the states I guess rather than at the federal government because we got the Hyde Amendment at the federal level, do you expect this fight to morph into a, frankly, Democratic Party-based defense of access to abortion. Right now, Democrats are not mounting a very stiff resistance to what Republicans are doing in the state, specifically on access to abortion services.
RICHARDS: Well, I think we‘re seeing in state legislatures across the country, as you mentioned earlier, very extreme legislation being proposed, again, I think by very extreme elements of the Republican Party. I have actually been encouraged at the federal level to see not only Democratic senators coming to the defense of Planned Parenthood but also Republican senators who are saying, look, this is a basic health care provider to 3 million people every year, one in five women in America have been to a Planned Parenthood health center, and we need more access to, frankly, affordable, quality health care, not less.
So, I am hoping we‘re beginning to see Republicans and Democrats come together in defense of women‘s reproductive health care.
MADDOW: Cecile Richards is president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America—I know you are very busy. Thank you—thank you very much for your time tonight.
RICHARDS: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Senator James Inhofe lands his own plane right in the middle of “Debunktion Junction. And, yes, he had clearance. Senator Inhofe always has clearance. We have the audio from the guys who James Inhofe almost hit on the runway when he landed. Seriously. That‘s next.
MADDOW: “Debunktion Junction,” what‘s my function?
Ready? First question: true or false—Oklahoma Republican Senator James “Mountain” Inhofe is so not that great of a pilot that the FAA made him take remedial instruction after a bizarre near-disaster at a small airport last fall? Is that true or false?
True. “The Smoking Gun” today revealed the amazing audio recordings
of witnesses to a bizarre senator caused aviation near miss that happened
last fall. It happened in October. The gentleman from Oklahoma was
piloting his plane—I don‘t know how you do that. That‘s like this maybe
He decided to land his plane on a closed runway at a small airport in south Texas. It was a closed runway. It was a runway marked with a big yellow x as in closed, as in don‘t land here—probably looked something like this.
The reason the runway was closed is because it was filled with construction vehicles—also with living human construction workers.
According to the details released today, Senator Inhofe‘s plane briefly touched down on the closed runway, then sky hopped over six vehicles on the runway before landing again for real.
Here is the amazing witness audio released today by “The Smoking Gun.”
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WITNESS: Scared the crap out of us on the north end, then he started to land on the other side of us and there was a couple of trucks there. He damn near hit a big red dually. And he hopscotched over him and landed on the runway anyway.
FAA: OK. Did you get a call sign of the aircraft?
WITNESS: Yes, sir, I‘ve got it and I‘ve got the pilot‘s name is James Inhofe. Well, he landed right in the middle of us. And I‘ve got a list of witnesses. I‘ve got about 10 people who was out on the runway—scared the death out of us. And then some people up here at the hangar which is real close to where the red truck was coming up the runway.
That boy pulled over. I think he actually wet his britches. He was scared to death. I mean, hell, he started trying to head for the side of the runway. The pilot could see him, or he should have been able to. He was right on him before he could –
FAA: Yes. Let me—and you said you had his name. What was his names again? James what?
WITNESS: James Inhofe. They tell me he‘s a senator from Oklahoma.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That he is. When approached today for comment, Senator Inhofe called this an old story. Indeed, Senator Inhofe talked about this near miss on February on the Senate floor. He maintained that he had done nothing wrong, but still he accepted his punishment of remedial ground training and flight instruction. Among the topics: cockpit management and distractions and aeronautical decision-making.
So, Jim Inhofe, pilot, neat. Also, Jim Inhofe, pilot, terrifying.
That one is true.
Next up, true or false—G.E., the same G.E. that owns nearly half of this network, G.E. has heard the outrage over its big profits, no taxes 2010 report, and the company will give back its $3.2 billion IRS refund. “USA Today” and the “Associated Press” reporting today that the General Electric Corporation has felt so bad about all the uproar over their extra light bill from Uncle Sam that they up and did something to make everybody feel better about it.
Is that true or is that false?
False. Totally false, completely made up on purpose. The liberal group U.S. Uncut and the Yes Men, the same Yes Men who once showed up at a trade conference and tried to sell the idea of giant inflatable survival balls, this time they really did convince reporters that this fake G.E. press site was the real thing complete with this press release.
Quote, “G.E. responds to public outcry—will donate entire $3.2 billion tax refund to help offset cuts and save American jobs.”
This prank had the effect of forcing G.E., the real G.E., the “I work for G.E.” G.E. to make its own statement about its big profits, no taxes 2010 report. Like any company that pulled in more than $14 billion last year and paid zip in taxes, they would like to stop talking about it, please. Quote from the real G.E. spokeswoman, “It‘s a hoax and G.E. did not receive a refund.” G.E. prefers if to call that $3.2 billion a tax benefit, for the record.
I love “Debunktion Junction.”
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a great night.
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>