The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/27/11

Guests:
Ezra Klein, John Stanton, Chris Fitzsimon
Transcript:

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Hi, Lawrence. Good to see you tonight.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Good seeing you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Lawrence. And thanks to you for staying with us for the next hour.
So, here we are, six days to go and still no deal.

Tonight, the federal government now sits less than one week away from officially defaulting on its debt for the first time in our history. And after weeks of relative calm and cautious optimism that some sort of deal will eventually be reached, today we begin to see some real, concrete signs of nervousness.
This right here is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, commonly referred to as the stock market. Here‘s where the Dow started the day, it was up around 12,500. Right here is where the Dow finished the day, down almost around 200 points. Today was the fourth straight day that the Dow headed into that really unhappy direction and it‘s now on pace to have its worse week in nearly a year.
Now, the reason given for this nose-dive in the market today was Wall Street‘s uncertainly about Washington—their uncertainty that our political leaders are going to be able to get it together in time to save the country from economic calamity.
As one Wall Street executive put it today, quite obviously, “Confidence in our political system is beginning to fade.”
Now, our goal here is not to make you or the markets any more afraid than you need to be. In fact, if you are the freehand of the market, go now to your happy place for just a minute while we get through the day‘s news, because the truth is, the stock market has good reason to be worried today.
At this hour, there is still no deal in Washington to raise the debt ceiling, and thereby calm the markets, you know, soothe and pet them, the markets and investors around the world.
In fact, today‘s developments were less calming and more chaotic. Today, the top Republican in the House, Speaker John Boehner, engaged in a pitch battle with his own caucus to get them on board with his debt ceiling plan. Mr. Boehner was forced to delay a vote on that plan that was supposed to be held today, not only so he could rework it, also it wasn‘t clear he had enough votes on his own side to pass it.
The House speaker reportedly told members of the caucus today—get your blank in line.
OK, maybe he didn‘t say it like that. But he said, get your blank in line. I can‘t do this job unless you‘re behind me.
At this stage in the game, that‘s the plan the Republicans are going with? Fall in line behind John Boehner‘s plan to raise the debt ceiling for all of six months? And then we can all have this fight all over again.
Now, the House is planning to vote on that bill tomorrow, but even if they pass it, it‘s not really expected to go anywhere. The White House has already warned that President Obama will veto it if it reaches his desk. And yesterday, four Republicans in the Senate announced that they are not for the Boehner plan either.
Again, I want to repeat, if you happen to actually be the freehand of the market and you are tuning in tonight to find out whether a deal‘s about to happen in Washington—please, turn away and think about babbling brooks and little warm puppies for just another minute, because with the chances of a grand compromise now appearing as unlikely as ever, today, a group of Democratic leaders in the House officially urged President Obama to go to plan Z, to deploy the constitutional option.
This would involve the president raising the debt ceiling on his own, without congressional authorization, by invoking his powers under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. JOHN LARSON (D-CT), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: If a small group really is that intent on destroying government and is intent on saying they don‘t believe that there‘s any ramifications for their irresponsibility, then we have to have a fail-safe mechanism. We believe that fail-safe mechanism is the 14th Amendment and the president of the United States.
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Speaker, House Republicans have failed to govern. Failure is not an option for our country. And therefore, you leave it to the president to take whatever action is within his power by his right under the Constitution to move this country forward and make sure Americans do not suffer the consequences of your failure.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite these pleas from House Democrats, the White House reiterated again today they have absolutely no plans to use the 14th Amendment as a fall-back plan And so, we wait for a deal.
And as we do, the consequences of default or even near-default are becoming clearer. Today, the head of one of the nation‘s largest credit agencies testified before the House and warned again of a possibility of a credit downgrade for the U.S. government.
The president of S&P told members of Congress that there are credible proposals out there that could prevent a downgrade but, quote, “We‘re waiting for what the final proposal is.” Yes, just like us.
So, here‘s the question tonight: with just six days to go know, is anybody in Washington thinking about how this could affect the average American while the rest of us are left to just sit back here and watch what happens? Are any of these folks thinking about what their choices are going to mean for kitchen tables across the country?
If they are not thinking about that, here‘s what they should be thinking about. Let‘s just take Congressman Michele Bachmann‘s district in Minnesota as an example. Michele Bachmann has said unequivocally that she will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.
Now, Michele Bachmann has a wealthy district in Minnesota. The median income there is about $70,000. The median home value is about $240,000.
Congressman Bachmann and House Republicans say they don‘t like President Obama‘s debt ceiling because it raises taxes, right? Well, guess what? If you‘re this average American living in Michele Bachmann‘s district making $70,000 a year, the president‘s plan won‘t actually raise your taxes at all. That‘s only for folks making a quarter of a million dollars or more.
But here‘s what a default could do. That $200,000 mortgage of yours will suddenly see an increase of loan payments of up to $400 per year after the U.S. credit rating gets downgraded and interest rates skyrocket. That‘s $400 more in loan payments you‘ll have to pay if the U.S. credit rating goes down a notch.
In total, that adds up to $20,000 extra dollars over the lifetime of your mortgage. Thank you, default.
If you‘re new to Congresswoman Bachmann‘s district and you want to secure a new home for a $220,000 house, let‘s say, you‘re looking at paying an extra $24,000 over the lifetime of your loan if the government defaults.
Well, now, let‘s say you‘re one of Michele Bachmann‘s constituents who has a healthy retirement plan tucked away, maybe something in the neighborhood of $140,000. What will the default mean to your 401(k)? Say goodbye to more than $8,000 of your portfolio as the stock market loses hundreds of billions of dollar in value.
Now, according to some estimates, the spike in interest rates and the damage to the U.S. dollar alone could cost the average American family more than $1,500. That means default is a job killing burden on the American people. Remember how they‘ve been saying that‘s what‘s going on with taxes, but that‘s actually what the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating means.
As politicians in Washington position themselves politically on this debt ceiling fight, have they thought at all about what this default is going to do to the rest of us?
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, columnist for “The Washington Post” and “Bloomberg” and also an MSNBC policy analyst.
Hi, Ezra. It‘s nice to see you.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening. Good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks.
Listen, so I‘ve been watching you, you know, writing recently about, you know, Boehner one, Boehner two, we could talk about, you know, Obama circa June, Obama circa July.
(LAUGHTER)
HARRIS-PERRY: It‘s really a three-ring circus in Washington that we‘re all looking at.
But tell me—is there something that we should be focusing on about the effect of this default on the average American? Has that been overlooked?
KLEIN: It has been. I mean, look, if only this were merely a three-ring circus. It turns out to have many more rings than that.
And the problem with the default argument that is being made, what you do hear from the Republicans—and this is the central factor driving the debate, there are a lot of Republicans in the House of Representatives OK going past August 2nd, or August 8th, or August 10th, or wherever they need to go to get a balanced budget amendment.
If you go there, though, we don‘t just get a downgrade—downgrade would be bad enough. And we could get a downgrade if we even just passed something like the Boehner plan, which S&P has said wouldn‘t do enough to cut the deficit.
If we go into what they call prioritization where we are still paying interest on the debt, but Treasury can no longer borrow—we‘re going to suck $134 billion out of the economy in August. That is 10 percent of that one month‘s GDP. You don‘t get to do that without going into, essentially, an immediate recession.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ezra, the numbers, when I hear you talk, stress me out, because I can‘t quite conceptualize what a billion looks like, or a trillion feels like. So, if I‘m sitting at my kitchen table tonight and I am not the freehand of the market and I‘m really trying to figure out how I should feel about this—seriously, what is worse for us? Is the U.S. credit rating being downgraded the worst outcome? Or is it worse for us to sign on to a debt ceiling plan that‘s being floated in Congress right now?
KLEIN: No, getting our credit downgraded, and I should say, according to S&P, if we sign on to something like the Boehner plan or some of the other plans floating around, we might still get a downgrade. We just might not get a default.
But to not have a deal is catastrophic. To have the deal, that‘s going to be, too.
So, to just put this into some perspective, if we do get a deal, both the Reid and Boehner plan say we‘re going to cut $20-some billion from the economy next year. Neither of them extends a payroll tax cut. That‘s $120 billion in tax relief mainly to working people. Neither of them extends unemployment insurance. That‘s another $60 billion out from the most jobless Americans.
So, you‘re dealing with about $200 billion, $250 billion coming out of the economy in 2012 alone. And a lot of that money is targeted directly at the people who need it the most. People can spend it, the people who are in most trouble if they don‘t have it.
Those aren‘t good plans. So, it shows something about how bad an actual default or prioritization would be that I can sit here and tell you plans that are that bad are nevertheless a vastly preferable future to default.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, look, particularly if the Boehner plan and the Reid plan are that close together in terms of how they might really hit working families, how are we going to bring this thing to an end? When you‘re looking at it, are we going to get one of these plans adopted, or is this going to be the president invoking this plan Z, this constitutional 14th Amendment right to do it? Is that the only way we‘re going to avoid the catastrophic case that you suggested?
KLEIN: I should say, I don‘t think the 14th Amendment will work. I think the administration‘s lawyers, the Harvard law professors like Laurence Tribe have been skeptical enough—and when you‘re dealing with a conservative Supreme Court and the uncertainly of a constitutional crisis on top of a debt crisis, that that‘s simply too hard a road to hoe.
But I think we‘re going to see something between the Reid and Boehner plans. And the big difference isn‘t in immediate cuts, but Boehner‘s plan does is in the next year, it forces us to raise the debt ceiling again and forces us to accept a $1.8 trillion or more in cuts from the so-called super commission. And if we don‘t do it, we go through another one of these crises. He also demands a vote on the budget amendment.
I think you can swap some of those poison pills out of there and get something a little bit more rational into sort of incentivizing another deficit reduction plan down the road and put them together and have something that when you have enough pressure coming from the markets, both parties could potentially vote for.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ezra, you make it sound like if reasonable people just sort of had a conversation about this, that there might actually be a solution.
So, thanks for being on and talking with us today.
KLEIN: Glad to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Ezra Klein, columnist for “The Washington Post” and “Bloomberg” and also an MSNBC policy analyst. Thanks so much.
KLEIN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, ask yourself, would you want John Boehner‘s—no, not you, Nancy. Would you want John Boehner‘s job right now, trying to placate a gaggle of angry Tea Partiers and stave off an economic calamity at the same time? I suspect there are moments even he doesn‘t want this job, but he‘s got it, and we need John Boehner to get better at doing it.
A day in the strife is next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARRIS-PERRY: One woman stands between extreme conservatism and women‘s reproductive health rights in North Carolina. She happens to be the governor, and she is in the middle of a political fight of her life, as we speak. It‘s a story to be heard, and it‘s coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARRIS-PERRY: In some ways, we are all essentially toddlers. No matter how old we get, we like doing things we are good at, and we like trying to figure out if other people are good at things, too. And a professional like sports, the short answer to whether or not someone is good is pretty easy to determine.
The Summer Olympics in London begin one year from today, and if you are great, not just good, but great at your sport, you get a medal—gold, silver, bronze, right? Simple.
But in politics, that can be a more difficult question to answer. How do you define success? How do you know, for example, if a speaker of the House has been successful?
One measure of it would be personal ambition, promotion to the next level, but history has not been kind to the ambitions of speakers of the House. Few have managed to ascend from this job.
For as long as there‘s been a United States Congress, there has been a speaker of the House, and in all that time, all 220 years, only one speaker of the House has ever been elected president. That would be President James K. Polk, who successes or lack thereof warrant their own analysis.
Another way to think about a speaker‘s success is the sheer amount of work that gets done and how difficult that work is. Let‘s go back to the Olympics‘ comparison for a moment. Sports like diving and gymnastic are great to the degree of difficulty and quality of execution.
Nancy Pelosi, for example, ruled the roost for two congressional terms. In her first term as speaker, in her very first term, over 300 laws originated in the House of Representatives and went on to become law. In her second term, about 250 laws originated in the House and went on to become law. That‘s 550 laws, some of which were the political equivalent of a gymnast double back with a double twist—and if you don‘t know what that is, Google it.
We‘re talking about the stimulus, ethics reform, financial reform, minimum wage increase, repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and, of course, health reform.
Now, under Speaker John Boehner‘s leadership, however, just 12 bills have originated in the House that have become law. I know I‘m new, but I‘m telling you, that‘s not a typo, and I did not misspeak. Come on, you heard me, 12.
At this rate, the Boehner House is on track to claim a mere 48 bills by the end of the term.
Now, a third measure is not whether or not you get promoted or how much you get done or against what odds. But whether or not everybody on your team stays on your team, the cohesiveness of your party.
Now, using this measure, Speaker John Boehner‘s actually been quite successful. He‘s managed to make sure his Republican caucus stayed in line. They even voted unanimously on some legislation. And he‘s kept internal dissent to a whisper, until now.
The number of Republicans in the House are publicly defying Speaker Boehner and his proposal for raising the debt ceiling, including the congressman who heads up a group of conservatives in the House who doesn‘t think Speaker Boehner‘s plans has the votes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN ®, OHIO: I am confident, as of this morning, that there were not 218 Republicans in support of the plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Republican Congressman Jim Jordan yesterday, but today, late in the day, starting to seem like Speaker Boehner‘s fortunes were changing. His debt ceiling proposal was reevaluated by the Congressional Budget Office and he pitched that plan to Republicans in the House with some very persuasive language, as he explained on right wing radio this morning.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO HOST: Is it true that you told some of the Republican members this morning that you need to get your a-word in line behind this debt ceiling bill?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I sure did. Listen, this is time to do what is doable.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining us now from Washington, for the very latest is John Stanton, reporter for “Roll Call” newspaper.
Nice to have you, John.
JOHN STANTON, ROLL CALL: It‘s good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I find myself in the strange position of actually sort of rooting for John Boehner here, for him to do well, for him to have a better day today than he had yesterday.
Do you think it‘s fair to say that he, in fact, did have a better day today?
STANTON: Compared to just yesterday, certainly. I think today, it would have been hard for him to have a worse day, frankly, than he did yesterday. You know, he had Jim Jordan coming out saying he didn‘t have votes. He had a lot of his members were very, very skeptical.
Then, of course, CBO came out and said that his bill to raise the debt limit didn‘t have enough savings as he thought it was going to have. He had to pull back from that. You know?
So, yesterday, certainly, was pretty rough. Today has been much, much better. He‘s had, you know, a number of members who were on the fence, come out now and said they will vote for the bill. CBO gave him a better score on his rewrite. He seems to have momentum going.
So, on those metrics, I think it is a better day, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, typically, I wouldn‘t find myself rooting for kind of Republican ideological coherence and cohesiveness, but it does seem like if anything is going to happen to move this debt ceiling forward or up, as the case may be, that we‘re going to need Republicans to have confidence that Boehner is their leader.
Right now, how would you judge whether or not he has that confidence in support of his caucus?
STANTON: I think it‘s—he has the confidence of his conference for now. There is a much larger question about whether or not he can maintain that after maybe Monday or Tuesday of next week, depending on what happens with this debt limit vote.
If Jim Jordan and conservatives are successful in beating back his bill tomorrow and it falls on the House floor, I think you‘re going to see a lot more willingness amongst Republicans to stand up to him and to say, no, he‘s going to have a lot more difficult time corralling them for stuff like looming appropriations fight where we‘re going to have another government shutdown kind of situation in September.
And, you know, this is really the moment that is going to define the rest of his speakership.
And, you know, right now most rank-and-file Republicans are not willing to question him or to question his leadership ability, but I think a lot of them are keeping a close eye with his relationship with conservatives.
HARRISP-PERRY: So, if he loses this vote, does he lose his job?
STANTON: No, I don‘t think so. I think he keeps his job, certainly, through the end of this session of Congress. What happens then is—could be an open question, frankly.
Eric Cantor is a very ambitious person. He‘s a majority leader and in theory would be sort of next in line. If they don‘t do well in the election and they lose some seats, you could see an effort to try to replace him. If a lot of his moderate members and old school members are lost to younger Tea Party types and other hard-lined conservatives, he could see a challenge then regardless of how the rest of the next 18 months go.
So, yes, it depends on sort of what‘s going so happen for him.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let‘s say it goes the other way. Let‘s say he wins the vote, they manage to get this thing out of the House, is it dead on arrival in the Senate? Is this—for all the work he may do to herd these cats around him, will it all be for naught?
STANTON: I don‘t think it‘s going to have any traction in the Senate. You know, the Senate Democrats today came out and said they were all going to vote against it, that‘s 53 votes against it right there, which means it‘s dead in the Senate. But I wouldn‘t necessarily say it‘s all for naught.
He is trying to position his conference for the final deal that is going to come out towards the end of the week or over the weekend on a debt ceiling increase. And the biggest challenge that he‘s had and that he continues to have, frankly, is convincing his conference that they need to compromise with Democrats and they need to give in some pretty big issues.
And the biggest problem for him, frankly, is that most of his members or a large portion of his members don‘t believe they need to. They just simply don‘t see the necessity. So, that‘s what he‘s struggling with.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks for your clarity on that.
John Stanton, reporter from “Roll Call” newspaper—thanks so much for your reporting and have a great evening.
STANTON: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: The House Republican caucus has decided to battle it out. They are dug in. So you can understand why they need a little inspiration for the big fight, but their inspiration says way more about them than, I think, anyone ever wanted to know.
I want to suggest an alternative for motivation coming up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need your help. I can‘t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we‘re going to hurt some people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was not only Ben Affleck in the movie “The Town” rallying his gang of violent, thieving thugs for a criminal adventure. It was also the inspirational movie of choice for the House Republican caucus. Yes, the fine folks steering the ship of the state into the iceberg known as “default” gathered around to hear hardened gangsters give them inspiration.
And we know this because they leaked that fact to the press. Perhaps they didn‘t vet the movie.
Anyway, around here we were thinking about our favorite pep talks—the best ones ever on film or on tape. And here is a mother of 9-year-old approved rendition of Herb Brooks‘ “Miracle on Ice” steam-winder, something that might be a better choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Great moments are born from great opportunities. That‘s what you have here tonight, boys. That‘s what you earned here tonight. Screw ‘em! This is your time. Now, go out there and take it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On the one hand, I‘m now, officially, hyped. On the other, great moments are born from great opportunities? That is probably just too much of a stretch for the House Republicans right now.
Maybe the accidental moment of transparency they chose was, in fact, perfect. Desperate folks bent on destruction for their own benefit and their own benefit alone. Go get ‘em fellas!
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BEV PERDUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: There‘s a new sheriff in town.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)o
PERDUE: And she knows how to do business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Bev Perdue in 2008 on the night North Carolina voters decided she would be their first woman governor. That same night, North Carolina voters chose Barack Obama for president and Elizabeth Dole‘s Democratic challenger, Kay Hagan, for U.S. Senate.
Then 2010 happened. Republicans won a bigger majority in state legislators than they had—excuse me, since 1928. And North Carolina was part of that historic conservative sweep.
Republicans took control of the North Carolina assembly for the first time in more than a century. That‘s when North Carolina‘s self-styled new sheriff and her giant veto stamp became North Carolina‘s thin blue line.
With a crop of conservative Republicans driving policy in the state assembly, Governor Perdue has become all that‘s standing in the way of the majority‘s uber conservative political vision of North Carolina‘s future in terms of reproductive rights, voting rights, access to the polls, and in terms of education and the economy.
When the Republican-led assembly passed a bill full of new abortion restrictions, a bill that included a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking the procedure, a script that has to be read for her an a sonogram required only so it can be shown to the woman seeking an abortion. When the legislators sent that bill to Governor Perdue, Governor Perdue got out her veto stamp.
She explained the veto like this, quote, “This bill is a dangerous intrusion in the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors. Physicians must be free to advice and treat their patients based on medical knowledge and expertise, and not have their advice overridden by elected officials seeking to impose their own id logical agenda on others.” Catch this—“Therefore, I veto this bill.”
Now, when the Republican-led assembly passed the bill requiring photo ID to vote in North Carolina, Governor Perdue got out her veto stamp and she explained that veto like this. “This bill has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with voter‘s oppression. Over the last 50 years, many brave men and women have fought to eliminate barriers to voting. And I refuse to allow the general assembly to turn back the clock to the days when the right to vote was enjoyed only by some citizens rather than by all citizens. Therefore, I veto this bill.”
And when the Republican-led assembly passed a budget that she believed was so underfunded in terms of education that it didn‘t meet the state‘s constitutional obligations, Governor Perdue got out her veto stamp and became the first North Carolina governor to veto an entire budget. She explained the veto in part by saying, “As I reviewed the general assembly‘s plan for how North Carolina should run the next two years, I found an ideologically-driven budget that rips at our classrooms and campuses, our environment and quality of life, our services for the needy and the ill, and the safety of our streets and communities, I cannot support a budget that sends the message that North Carolina is moving backwards when we have always been a state that led the nation.
The general assembly may have been satisfied with a state in reverse, but I am not. Therefore—OK, everybody, say it with me at home—I veto this bill.” Nice change of pace from the faux conciliatory do nothingness of Washington, isn‘t it?
And that‘s not to say it always works out for Bev Perdue. It‘s not like her veto stamp is magic or something. Republicans have promised to challenge every single one of their vetoes. And so far, they are making pretty good progress.
This week, the North Carolina house overrode her veto of the package of new abortion restrictions. Both the House and Senate voted to override her veto of the budget. And the House failed this week to get enough votes to override the voter bill.
So, that‘s one veto that might still stand.
But the point is it‘s not like it‘s some kind of easy-peasy, if you stand up if you have a spine and then everything will turn out right. There‘s a lesson in Bev Perdue, the new sheriff-turned-thin blue line in North Carolina.
What Bev Perdue means is that if you do stand up, then it is on the record what these policies really mean and what they are really designed to do. What you‘re doing with a Bev Perdue style giant veto stamp accompanying statements for every extreme policy is to make clear what the opposition is up to so you can give voters a choice. So, that when they stand up, they know where you stand versus where these other folks stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERDUE: I do want one litmus test and it‘s been the big decision-maker for me since I‘ve been governor. Does the decision that I can help North Carolina move forward or does it pull us backward? Every veto has been about moving North Carolina forward. I vetoed all these bills for reasons, my veto messages are very specific.
But, again, it‘s the people of North Carolina that are going to be surprised and perhaps shocked and awed about some of the results that are going to happen across the state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: She might not be winning all these political fights with the Republican assembly. But Bev Perdue is doing one thing very effectively. She‘s giving the voters of North Carolina a choice in 2012.
I love North Carolina. I went to college and grad school in the state, which means that a core part of my education took place in North Carolina. It also means that I came of age politically in North Carolina.
The first time I ever cast a vote for the president of the United States, I cast that vote in the state of North Carolina. And during my time as a North Carolinian, I also serve as an escort for women seeking abortion, so that when the extremists and protestors would come out and shout and yell and fight for women trying to seek medical attention in a difficult time, we would come and walk with these women, help them to walk the gauntlet, into the family planning clinics.
So, those three things, education, voting rights, and reproductive rights, those are all part of my North Carolina experience and it‘s why I love Bev Perdue. When I look at this woman, the first woman governor of North Carolina, a Democrat in charge, when the assembly is controlled by Republicans for the first time in more than a century, and I say, you are it.
You and your uncommonly steely backbone are the thin blue line standing up against what they are trying to do to the state, this new wave of conservatives. And it‘s not just you‘re the one standing there saying nope, nope, nope. But in doing so, you keep articulating that there is another North Carolina, that these people don‘t get to have the last say on everything, that there‘s another way to think about what this place is and why these issues matter.
And so, even though Bev Perdue keeps losing, the fact that she‘s there and keeps fighting, that is awfully important. Bev Perdue is the thin blue line in North Carolina, and I‘ll tell you what? If you don‘t have that thin blue line, North Carolina, well, you‘re Kansas.
Joining me now is Chris Fitzsimon, director of NC Policy Watch, a progressive public policy think tank in North Carolina.
Thanks for being here tonight.
CHRIS FITZSIMON, NC POLICY WATCH: Well, I‘m glad to be with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Great.
Listen, as I am taking a look right now at North Carolina and at these veto overrides, does it look, at this moment, like the North Carolina Senate is going to follow the House and override Governor Perdue‘s veto of this Right to Know Act, this Anti-Reproductive Choice Act?
FITZSIMON: Well, Melissa, it looks like the North Carolina Senate is going to vote on that tomorrow, and it is really in the hands of two Republican senators, one of whom is not going to be in town.
This bill passed with one Republican senator voting against it, Senator Stan Bingham from Davidson County, North Carolina. He said he‘s either going to vote against it tomorrow or he‘s going to take a walk and not vote at all. If he does that, the veto will be overridden and women will be denied their reproductive freedom if he stands tall and votes against it, votes against his Republican caucus and votes for common sense, then we won‘t have this extreme bill.
It‘s actually astonishing that we‘re sitting here talking about an anti-woman‘s bill this extreme, one of the most extreme in the country. There‘s no exception in this for rape victims. If a 14-year-old girl is raped and becomes pregnant, she has to endure the waiting period and right wing propaganda before she can access legal medical services.
It‘s really an astonishing bill as you mentioned, an infringement of the woman‘s rights, and doctor-patient relationship. We‘ll find out tomorrow whether or not that‘s going to be law in North Carolina, in this incredibly reactionary legislative session we‘re in the middle of.
Right. And particularly stunning in a place like North Carolina, which is, you know, a border state in lots of different sorts of ways, right? I mea, it‘s always been a place that had a deeply purple reality—sometimes go Republican in the national elections but often had Democratic governors or in the state, and so when I look at this battle now, going on with Governor Perdue and with this, as you say, reactionary set of new legislators, what kind of impact is this having as they‘ve overridden these other vetoes—what, kind of North Carolina are they making?
FITZSIMON: Well, they are making a far right North Carolina. You mention Kansas, and I‘m worried we might go further than that if these folks stay in power. The last few weeks of the session, which ended in June, now, this session to override vetoes and past redistricting has really become more of an ideological crusade than a legislative session.
We‘re dismantling public education with budget cuts and with voucher schemes, that the House majority leader here is pushing. We‘re laying off state employees. Our unemployment rate rose in June, from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent. We‘ll above the national average.
And our employment security office attributed most of that to layoffs of public employees, public sector employees in public schools and community colleges and universities. We really are taking North Carolina from what, I think, is a state with a strong progressive tradition. We don‘t do everything right, but we‘ve done things right. And that is all in jeopardy now—thanks to the ideologues that have taken over our legislature.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris Fitzsimon, director of NC Policy Watch, many of my nearest and dearest are still in North Carolina, so please do, in fact, watch that policy.
FITZSIMON: We will. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks so much for being here.
Now, what happens when 200,000 people leave a major American city? Goodbye. Gone. And the laws of tax revenue is just the beginning of the problems?
I‘ll have that, next.
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HARRIS-PERRY: “The Best New Thing in the World Today” is about this guy, and it‘s not about mustaches, even though I have to say, he is a rocking it. That‘s just ahead.
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HARRIS-PERRY: Today in Detroit, Mayor Dave Bing announced he was putting this most American of cities through the urban equivalent of triage.
Mayor Bing has named three categories for Detroit neighborhoods, three designations based on how likely they are to survive.
If the city thinks yours is a steady neighborhood, you‘ll get the most city services like help cleaning up the streets.
And if you‘re in a place they decide is transitional, you‘ll get less.
And if you‘re in a distressed neighborhood, you‘ll get fire and police services and garage pickup and also more demolitions.
Detroit is in, no joke, trouble.
Now, these pictures come from the terrific Sweet Juniper, which calls them feral houses. Detroit‘s got a lot of them. The city lost a quarter of its population over the last decade, 200,000 people who got up and left and are most certainly not coming back.
Detroit has lost a million people since 1950. Entire blocks stand empty. This is a real American city, the Motor City, really shrinking.
But Detroit is also really refusing to quit. This is a city with its own baseline. Remember this Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler with Eminem? Of course you do. Imported from Detroit, with eternal base and some rhythm guitar and a gospel choir.
Now, I live in another musical city that‘s been emptied out, New Orleans—also very great, also very American, with its own wonderfully American way.
And even before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had begun to lose New Orleanians. After Katrina, whole neighborhoods were empty and ruined and not all of them have been built back. The city‘s population is down nearly a third since the last census. And many of the neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward have lost way more than half their people.
New Orleans has been going through its own triage, a painful process of trying to decide which neighborhoods to support and which will simply fade away.
Now, these are two American cities, each confronting a smaller future.
And we talk as a nation about doing big things.
In Detroit‘s case, the mayor has come right out and said what‘s very difficult to admit. That Detroit has to get smaller. That he can‘t continue to support every neighborhood at the same level, because—wait for it—the city can‘t raise enough revenue.
Sound familiar?
Now, I want to keep focusing in on Detroit here, because I think it‘s a vivid example of a phenomenon called the hollow prize. It means basically that you win something. And because of what‘s happening at the time you win it, the thing you‘ve won tons out to be hollow. You‘ve won a hollow prize.
You‘re Dave Bing, NBA basketball star, hometown hero, successful businessman, you win the race to be mayor. What do you get exactly?
Consider President Obama who took the oath of office in January 2009. Let‘s remember 2009, a month when the U.S. economy shrank the fastest in more than a quarter century, a month when we lost 600,000 – when it stopped being unusual to find yourself suddenly unemployed, or to know people who had just been put out of work. A month when it felt to many like the world was ending—and Barack Obama became our first black president on the 20th day of that terrible month.
He had won the nation‘s highest office at one of the worst possible moments. So, his was something of a hollow prize. And when we talk about the hollow prize, we‘re often referring to African-American mayors—the ones who finally come into power when the city has tipped into semi-permanent decline.
It‘s hard to find a prize more hollow than the mayor of Detroit. You‘re elected to govern a city, you spend most of your time shutting off the lights.
And even when the federal government steps in to rescue your key industry, even when the rescue succeeds and saves the car companies that made your town Detroit in the first place, that help make America America, you still have emptiness, you still have feral houses and feral churches and blocks and blocks and blocks of nothing but hard, hard choices.
Detroit was one of the first real centers of black political power in middle class prosperity, and now, it‘s another black mayor‘s hollow prize.
Now, we‘ve talked a lot on this show about the official response to the distress in Detroit and other parts of Michigan. This school, the Catherine Ferguson Academy for young mothers with its farm right in the middle of Detroit, Catherine Ferguson was nearly closed this year by a state-appointed financial manager with near-dictatorial powers over what happened in the Detroit schools.
Some say that Detroit‘s Mayor Dave Bing would like emergency manager powers of his own, but Mayor Bing insists that‘s not true. That he is still the plain old elected mayor of a city with a giant hole where the tax base used to be.
But what‘s happening to Mayor Bing‘s Detroit and to New Orleans and in different cities in different ways all across America is that we, the rest of America have cut them loose to sink or swim on their own, when they simply can‘t make it. Our collective will to preserve cities has shrunk and our cities have shrunk right along with that will.
The question now is what a just outcome looks like for these places. How can we make sure the families that live there, live in safety? That they have good schools? That they have health care?
We have neighborhoods in this country where you can‘t so much as buy a fresh piece of fruit.
And as we consider the enormous budget cuts that have pushed out the very idea of raising more money by taxing the very wealth—we should consider this, we can still help places like Detroit and New Orleans and so many American cities. They don‘t have to become just hollow prizes. We could decide that we can still do big things if we have the political will to do them.
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HARRIS-PERRY: This is Walter Reed, the Walter Reed—the guy for whom the legendary military hospital was named. Here he is again, a little older and with a mustache. He was an Army doctor who led a team to Cuba, and confirmed that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes rather by human to human contact.
For more than a century, the hospital that bares his name has made its name serving presidents and privates.
Yes, it is also a place that had a scandal a few years back, about substandard living conditions. You can see some of the mold here and a bit of peeling wallpaper there.
But mainly, over the decades, Walter Reed has been a refuge where hundreds of thousands of Americans wounded in war have been able to go and get better. And maybe learn how to knit, you know, occupational therapy, World War I style.
If you happened to lose a limb in the “Great War,” the medical staff couldn‘t do much more than give you a pair of crutches. But today, Walter Reed is a state of the art center for amputees. Soldiers are given new limbs and taught how to walk, and how to run, and how to fish, how to tie fishing lures, even after losing an arm.
For the 150,000 patients it serves, Walter Reed is an example of government that works, which is why even though the facility we have come to know as Walter Reed is closing, they held a ceremony today to say goodbye—the hospital where all of this important life-saving work takes place will continue for another century. It will just happen to move to two new facilities and one of them was built to order, and even the therapy dogs get to go, too.
And around here, that‘s great news. That‘s the kind of news that we call “The Best New Thing in the World Today.”
Listen, that does it for us tonight. I‘m Melissa Harris-Perry—I‘m in for the Rachel Maddow that you can‘t ever actually ever really be in for. But I‘m here You can follow me @MHarrisPerry on Twitter.
We‘ll see you again tomorrow.
It‘s time now for “THE ED SHOW.” Good night.


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