The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/03/12
EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: And thank you to you at home for sticking
around for the next hour. Rachel has the night off, but we have a great
show, including – I am very excited for this – an epic chart smackdown.
You Venn diagram aficionados out there, you should get ready to rumble.
But before that, I have to begin with a confession. You know Mitch
McConnell, kind of a jolly guy. He`s a Kentuckian. He leads the Senate
He is my favorite politician by far, and not just because of his good
looks or his Southern charm. It`s because Mitch McConnell is the most
honest man in Washington.
You ask almost anyone else in a position of power on Capitol Hill why
they`re doing, what they`re doing, and you get spin, spin, and more spin.
You know, they`re reaching across the aisle to make the country better,
because freedom is the most important freedom, that any freedom and
American value, and then you think about the children and their freedom,
and et cetera, et cetera.
Meanwhile, they just got done 10 minutes before that meeting with six
mega donors and the way they`re voting on the amendment because they`re
settling a score they have been nursing since the 2005 budget fight.
Mitch McConnell is not really like that. He tells you what`s going
on. When he speaks I have learned to listen. In fact, of every politician
and I`m not kidding about this, he`s literally the one I listen to the most
closely because his mixture of real power and frankly honesty maim hick the
best guy to what is going to happen next in the Capitol.
A few examples, back in October 2010, Major Garrett of “The National
Journal” sat down with McConnell to talk about what Republicans would do if
they took back Congress in the fall. McConnell didn`t Garrett he wanted
compromise or a new tone or a renewed spirit of cooperation and partnership
or any of the warm and fluffy things you tend to hear politicians say.
No, he told Garrett, quote, “The single most important thing we want
to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Ouch.
So partisan, sure, but honest. If that would have been all you knew
about the Republican Party, you could have predicted the last two years in
Congress almost perfectly.
But, of course, most people didn`t predict it perfectly. They have
been puzzled by Republicans who seem unwilling to touch anything with a
Democratic name on it, up to and including bills the Republicans have
supported and even come up with themselves in the first place.
But you know what? McConnell explains that whole thing to us, too.
In January 2011, he gave an interview to “The Atlantic” in which he said,
“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off these proposals because
we thought that the only way the American people would know a great debate
was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan.”
You know what? McConnell was correct. I think that`s actually one of
the most profound things anyone has said about politics.
What he understood was that what makes a bill bipartisan is not the
ideas in it or the spirit in which it`s offered. It`s whether any
legislators from the other party sign on. And if none of them do, then by
definition, no matter how moderate the ideas in the bill are, the bill is
So by keeping his members off the major bills, he makes each and every
one of those pieces of legislation into a partisan bill, and he destroyed
the president`s hope for image as a bipartisan compromiser.
This weekend on FOX News, McConnell gave another remarkably honest
interview. For years now, Republicans have been saying repeal and replace,
repeal and replace, you probably heard it. That is their health care plan.
But they haven`t come together behind anything that would actually
replace the Affordable Care Act and cover a substantial act of the
uninsured. Chris Wallace asked McConnell why. In fact, he asked McConnell
why three times.
And by the third time, McConnell`s limited patience gave out and he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: One of the keys to Obamacare is it will
extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In
your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: First, let me say the
single best thing we can do for the American health care system is to get
rid of Obamacare.
WALLACE: If I may, sir, you talked about repeal and replace. How
would you provide universal coverage?
MCCONNELL: I`ll get to it in a minute.
WALLACE: What specifically are you going to do provide universal
coverage to 30 million people who are uninsured?
MCCONNELL: That is not the issue. The question is how can you go
step by step to improve the American health care system. It`s already the
finest health care system in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: That is not the issue. It is already the finest health care
system in the world.
You listen to that and it`s clear there is no replace agenda. Not a
real one, just repeal.
And the reason there`s just repeal is key Republicans don`t think the
uninsured are the issue. They don`t think our health care system is, in
fact, all that broken. It`s the best in the world, remember.
This is about tweaks, improvements, not a national crisis of 50
million people who can`t get care when they need it.
Look, you could say, Ezra, your love, your adoration for Mitch
McConnell is blinding you to the truth. He`s an outlier. Republicans do
want to fix the health care system.
To which I say, oh, yes?
Here is Eric Cantor on “MORNING JOE” on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC: It seems to me that the Republican Party then has to
have some kind of a framework of an alternative to what they`re talking
about because whatever else we think about health care, everybody knows
that financially the system is broken. You can still get cured here in
ways you can`t in others and get treatment, but the cost system is kind of
a Ponzi scheme.
So, my question again to you, Congressman, is when will we see a
Republican plan that would replace more meritoriously the Obamacare plan
that you`re so unhappy with?
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Tom, you knew back in 2009
when the Obamacare bill was being considered on the House floor, we put
forward our alternative. To say we don`t have a replacement is not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Aha, so they do have a replace. What Cantor is saying is he`s
got a full plan, like right now, you go read it. It`s the same plan they
voted on in 2009. It`s sitting out there. You can download it on the
Internet, which we did today at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
And we went through it, and as it turns out, there`s not much to see.
There were four main ideas in the Republican bill. One was tort reform, to
which, eh – another was allowing insurers to sell across state line.
Now, this is a big Republican idea here and we should go through it
real quick. Right now, your state regulates the insurance you can buy. If
Aetna doesn`t follow the rules you lay down by the people you elected to
represent you in the legislature and the governor mansion, they can`t sell
in your state.
But that is not how all markets for all products work. If you ever
notice how your credit card bills come from South Dakota or Delaware, it`s
because credit card companies can sell across state lines. And so, they
cut deals with South Dakota and Delaware in which those states gave them
very, very, very lax regulatory environments and the credit card companies
put their headquarters there.
So, all Aetna would have to do is follow the rules in whichever state
they wanted which would be whichever state had the fewest rules. So,
classic race to the bottom.
A third was – a third idea in the Republican bill that is was high
risk, where sick people can go to get insurance with other sick people.
It`s a stopgap measure you do if you don`t want to end discrimination of
people with pre-existing conditions. And Republicans don`t want to do
that, or at least they didn`t want to do it in this bill.
A fourth idea was branch to states to help them experiment with
reforms on their own.
Look, whether you like the changes or you hate them, they`re not big
reforms. They`re tweaks. They are adjustments. They are small, tiny
changes to the existing law. And they`d have a small effect.
The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan number crunchers in
Congress, ran the numbers on the Republican proposal. And they estimated
that by 2019, it would have covered, wait for it, 3 million uninsured
people. That`s compared to the Affordable Care Act`s 30-plus million.
So, that`s the graph you`re seeing here. The blue lines going up are
the number of people covered under the Affordable Care Act. And those tiny
red bars you see if you look down towards the bottom of the screen, the
ones that don`t seem to move very much, it`s number of people covered by
the Republican alternative.
So the Republican alternative would cover less than a tenth as many
insured people as the president`s plan, and that Eric Cantor says is the
GOP`s plan today, which is all to say McConnell was, as usual, right. The
Republicans really don`t see covering the uninsured as, quote, “the issue”.
And they really are comfortable with the system in pretty much the form it
As I told you earlier, you should always listen to Mitch McConnell.
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s terrific new show,
“THE CYCLE”, and contributor at “Salon”.
It`s good to see you.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON: Thanks. Great to be here.
KLEIN: The thing McConnell is great at in my view is getting politics
right. He tends to see the political calculation clearly. And so, you
wonder if he has it right here, too.
In health care circles, people sometimes say the most important fact
is not that 15 percent of people are uninsured, but that 85 percent of
people have insurance. And in fact, more than 95 percent of voters are
So, Republicans actually right is a whole play that in fact covering
the uninsured is not a political winner and instead, it`s better to just
sort of give it lip service and move on to other things in your agenda?
KORNACKI: Right. Well, first of all, some people would say part of
getting politics right is not admitting to this stuff in public –
KORNACKI: But his analysis I think is correct. And I think that the
important thing to keep in mind about in terms of how health care politics
play out, and this was true when Bill Clinton was president.
I think it`s been true under Obama`s presidency, is that when health
care exists as sort of an abstract campaign idea, think about 1992 with
Bill Clinton. He made universal health care a big part of the campaign,
very popular idea, conceptually with people. The idea that basic justice
(ph) of that, that everybody should have access to good health insurance.
And if you`re arrested, you get a lawyer, if you`re sick, you get a doctor.
That kind of appeal.
The same thing for Obama in 2008. The tables turned as soon as
Clinton actually proposed his plan in `93 and as soon as Obama actually put
his plan together, you know, in 2009-2010. What you saw happened then was
Republicans basically looked at that 85 percent. They looked at the middle
class. They look at people who already had insurance, people who
conceptually liked the idea of everybody getting covered.
And then they basically made the case then that, hey, look, if we`re
going to start covering other people this way, you stand to lose maybe the
ability to choose your own doctor, maybe it`s the policy you have right now
might go away. Some kind of security that you have, that 85 percent has.
That`s what Republicans go after.
So, it`s a bind where they don`t want to say they`re against universal
health insurance, but they kind of wait for the moments when it`s on the
table and they start going after all of things people are going to lose.
KLEIN: So, the one thing you can look at, right, is voters simply
fear change. When people bring up big legislative changes to things that
matter in their lives, they get scared and they back away.
And so, another piece of what something McConnell said recently is
sort of in the same vein. I`ve actually been somebody who thinks –
contrary to some of conventional wisdom – that if Republicans take the
election, they will be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They can
use 51 votes and get all the money out of it. And without the money, it
But McConnell doesn`t think that. I want you to listen to what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: And you thought it was a good idea for the federal
government to go in this direction, I`d say the odds are still on your side
because it`s a lot harder to undo something than it is to stop it in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: So, is he right? Are Republicans going to have more trouble
repealing the Affordable Care Act than they like to think?
KORNACKI: I think the problem here is there is an awareness on the
part of the Republican – most Republicans` part that they do need some
kind of replace if they`re going to go forward with repealing it because
then the minute you repeal it, it`d reverse that dynamic I`m talking about
where people side with the Democrats overwhelming in the poll because
people like the idea of universal care.
And the Republicans really have not figured out even the first base of
what they would honestly do. You laid out the plan from 2009. There`s a
little bit of that. There`s talk of a tax credit. There`s a whole debate
within the party right now, I think, about some of the popular provisions
of Obamacare. You know, 26-year-olds being on their parents` policy.
There are some Republicans who seem to want that to still be part of the
law, others who want that out.
You know, should there be a law banning, denying coverage to pre-
existing conditions? That sort of thing. So, they have not really figured
this out right now. And again, a lot of it comes back to the fact that,
you know, Obama did at the end of the day propose and implement a
Republican health care plan in a lot of ways. The alternative – .
KLEIN: The John Chafee plan.
Steve Kornacki, you can see more of his excellent political analysis
on “THE CYCLE,” the MSNBC`s new hit show, weekdays at 3:00 p.m. and at
“Salon.” Thank you very much for being here tonight.
KLEIN: Have a great Fourth of July.
KORNACKI: You, too.
KLEIN: Did you hear that the president is spending America`s
Independence Day in Paris? The French have a word for that and I believe
it`s le croc (ph). That is next.
HAYES: Two hundred and thirty-six years ago today on July 3rd, 1776,
the soon to be second president of the United States, John Adams, wrote a
letter to his wife Abigail from his post in the great city of Philadelphia.
An ebullient John Adams wrote to his wife, quote, “The second day of
July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I`m
apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great
anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of
deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be
galvanized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells,
bon fires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other,
from this time forward forever more.” Amen. Actually, I add the amen.
But that was the second day of July he was talking about – July 2nd.
John Adams was, in turned out, two days off. July 2nd was the day the
Second Continental Congress voted for our independency from the British,
but it wasn`t until July 4th the Declaration of Independence was officially
So, even from the very beginning, confusion has always reigned when it
comes to the Fourth of July. Even though we celebrate the Fourth as the
day the Declaration of Independence was signed, for example, most
historians believe it wasn`t actually signed until August 2nd.
But this year, on the eve of this country`s 236th birthday, that
confusion has been ratcheted up to a whole new totally paranoid level. Did
you hear what President Obama is going to be celebrating the Fourth of July
tomorrow? Did you hear where he`s going to be?
Yes, Paris. Paris, France. Our president, America`s president is
going to be celebrating the birth of our nation not in America, but
overseas and not just overseas but in France?
Well, OK, that is of course 100 percent pure unadulterated not
happening. But it has become an accepted fact in some corners of the
right. It all began with this article in “The Hollywood Reporter” last
week which noted that the European branch of the Obama fund-raising effort
will kick off next week in Paris with an Independence Day reception. That
is to say the folks in the Obama campaign charged with raising money from
American expats will be holding an event in Paris on July 4th. Not such a
But that little piece of reporting, somehow through the magic of
conservative blog stuff became President Obama is going to Paris for the
Fourth of July to raise money.
The piece was first picked up by – who else – Breitbart.com, which
helpfully noted that Paris, quote, “may be the only place Obama can still
find cheering throngs.” Nice hit.
But that Breitbart.com piece in turn then found its way over to
venerable conservative publication, “The National Review”. A contributor
there named Andrew McCarthy linked to the article with this headline,
“Final Jeopardy – category is Obama: The answer is fund-raising in Paris.”
The link there noting that is how President Obama will be spending July
Karl rove then tweeted that “National Review” link at his hundreds of
thousands of followers and, from there, we were off to the races.
Joe Mathis at “Philadelphia” magazine captured a few of the tweets
from the right responding. There was this from @FOXNewsmom, quote,
“Fitting, comrade Obama campaign to celebrate July in socialist France.”
Here`s another, “Would Reagan/Bush/Romney go to Paris on Fourth of
July to fund raise? Never. Obama does, showing his desperation.”
Or this one, “Why would anyone vote for a guy who hates the U.S. so
But it wasn`t just folks on Twitter that got all worked up. It was
also high-profile conservative talk show host Lars Larson who bought into
Quote, “What would you expect the president do on our day of
independence? Perhaps give a speech or visit wounded warriors. At least
something in America. Not this president. Not Barack Obama.”
Actually that is exactly what this president, Barack Obama, is going
to be doing tomorrow. He`s not going to be in Paris. He`s going to be
right here in America meeting with active duty U.S. service members who are
becoming naturalized U.S. citizens at the White House. That`s 4,000 miles
or so away from Paris.
When it was pointed out to “The National Review`s” Andrew McCarthy
that he was flat out wrong about this, that President Obama is not going to
be in Paris on July 4th, he ultimately apologized via Twitter saying,
quote, “LOL, OK, OK, I see Obama campaign, not necessarily Obama will be
fund-raising in Paris on July 4th. I didn`t realize there was a
That`s an apology, kind of. But fair enough, we all get it wrong
But this idea is still bouncing around strange corners of the blogo
and Twittersphere, at some point, your crazy uncle might corner you and
say, my God, did you hear Obama is in Paris for Independence Day? Can you
Actually, this year, though, you can do him one better. You can tell
him the real Independence Day was on Monday. He`ll blow his mind. And
more importantly, he`ll change the topic.
Joining me now is MSNBC contributor and Slate.com political reporter
Dave, good to see you, my friend, and happy almost July 4th.
DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE.COM: Happy July 4th eve.
KLEIN: So, I actually thought France bashing was sort of very 2004.
I mean, this year actually Romney lived in France, he speaks some French.
He`s said good things about the French health care system.
And I want to be clear – I have no problem with that. The French
health care system is actually really good.
But you think it would make top Republicans nervous about throwing
around accusations about having loyalties to Paris.
WEIGEL: I think quite the opposite. I mean, if there was a
sophisticated angle to this, it would probably be the one from Karl Rove.
When Karl Rove worked for President Bush`s campaign in 2004, a member of
the team gave a quote to “The New York Times” about how John Kerry looked
French. I mean, there`s kind of a record the Republicans have of
foreignizing Democratic candidates, especially linking them to whatever you
find wimpy at the moment.
And the incentive to do that if your candidate is on video speaking
French as Mitt Romney is, even if it`s something completely silly, like for
whatever reason the Romney campaign decides to engage in, it`s something
you can at least muddy up. At least you can create some confusion out
I mean, when I see this story, I think of the polls that show 1
percent of the people think Barack Obama is Mormon. The more confusion you
get, the better off you are.
KLEIN: Actually, this is exactly what I wanted to move the
conversation to because I get, I`m sure you get more than I do, but I get a
lot of e-mail forwarded with the craziest conspiracies and half truths and
total untruths you can think of.
So, you actually go out there on the trail. How prevalent is this
kind of thing in the mind of the voters you talk to?
WEIGEL: I had not heard anything about the French. And if I did, I
think most Tea Partiers are well schooled enough in the revolution to know
that the French were on our side. The first Tea Party I want to was near
the statue of Lafayette outside the White House.
But, no, other theories I think are kind of urged along. And this is
– the fact, you know, Rove was a central player in this. He pushed it
around a little bit.
But remember it was Karl Rove who wrote after the president went to
Europe, after he went to Egypt, wrote he was on an apology tour. In so far
as Mitt Romney has a foreign policy argument against the president, it`s
that he goes around the world apologizing, he gives up territory, he gives
up treaties. He doesn`t negotiate. He`s letting everyone roll over on
So, far from conspiracy theories almost, the understanding that you
hear on the trail about what the president`s doing, what his foreign policy
is, is informed by that sense, and it`s key to make people think that he`s
giving things away when he goes overseas.
KLEIN: MSNBC contributor and Slate.com political reporter, Dave
Weigel, making the unsophisticated sophisticated. Dave, thank you so much
for being around tonight.
WEIGEL: Thank you, Ezra.
KLEIN: Have you ever been at the ATM and pushed the wrong button?
OK, now imagine pushing the wrong button affects everywhere who lives in
your state. That actually happened yesterday, and I`ll have all of the
gory details, next.
KLEIN: Nobody ever promised voting would be easy. Remember Palm
Beach County, Florida`s confusing butterfly ballots or the state`s other
flawed paper ballots in the 2000 presidential election, especially those
chads that were left hanging or dimpled or I never understood how this
could happen, pregnant.
If you are a Floridian who fears you may have mistakenly voted for the
wrong guy in the 2000 election, that`s something you have long had to make
your peace with. But at least you were able to bare that burden privately.
Now imagine lodging the incorrect vote, the deciding vote and having
everyone know that you did it, that you were the one to do if. Late last
night in the North Carolina general assembly – it`s silly that most of us
at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW had gone home already – late last night, state
lawmakers were voting on whether to override the governor`s veto of a pro-
On Sunday, Democratic Governor Bev Perdue had voted legislation that
would have paved the way for gas drilling procedure called hydraulic
fracturing in North Carolina. She said no to fracking.
And on Monday, Republican lawmakers set about trying to undo her work.
They had enough votes to do that in the state senate, overriding the
governor`s veto there. But in the general assembly, the vote was really,
really, really close. Now, I should mention in the North Carolina general
assembly, you vote by pushing a button. It`s really important you push the
Last night, a yes vote meant you wanted to override the fracking veto.
If you were voting no, you were voting not to override the fracking veto.
Becky Carney is a Democratic member from Charlotte who wanted to vote
against the override. That meant she needed to push the no button, the red
button. Late last night, while after 11:00 p.m., Becky Carney pushed the
green button, the one that said aye. In doing so, Becky Carney mistakenly
cast a deciding vote to override Governor Perdue`s veto.
She mistakenly voted with the Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BECKY CARNEY (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I made a mistake. And I tried
to get recognized to change it as people have been doing all night on other
bills and it was too late because it changed the outcome of the vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Under North Carolina House rules, members can change their
vote if they have made a mistake – something that apparently happens all
the time. But they can`t change their vote if that change affects the
final outcome. Only if your mistake is inconsequential do you get to
change it. Only when it doesn`t count do we care.
Voting is the most important thing we get to do in this experience
called democracy. It will be 236 years old tomorrow. But as with any
experiment, mistakes will happen.
The important thing is to keep trying, to keep learning from our
mistakes, which is far from a given in this particular election year.
Right now, in many places, access to voting is getting really, really
The fight for voting rights, still ahead.
KLEIN: At one time in this country, as in many, many other countries,
going back for hundreds of years, people who owed money that could not pay
were at risk of being thrown into debtor`s prison. This is a debtor`s
prison in England, where the debtors worked away on some kind of internal
This old debtor`s prison is in Prince Edward County, Virginia. For
the most part, the U.S. outlawed debtor`s prison back before the civil war.
So, when you see a picture of that Virginia debtor`s prison now, it`s got a
county official clowning around out in front.
In this country, in the United States of America, we don`t do debtor`s
prison anymore. And yet, in this country, we are still throwing people
into prison for owing money and not paying it back. And here`s the really
perverse part. They owe the money to us. We grab people for minor
misdemeanors, start charging them fees and penalties, and then we throw
them in jail when they can`t pay the debts we have dropped on them.
For instance, Richard Garrett, he lives in Alabama where he spent 24
months in jail over traffic and license violations that now amount to
$10,000. “The New York Times” in a remarkable article today reports that
Mr. Garrett is sick and out of work, but he can`t pay.
Another defendant from the same part of Alabama ended up owing $1,500
for what began as a speeding ticket. She found herself in the tender care
of the same private probation company that has been so helpful in re-
incarcerating Mr. Garrett.
Gina Ray (ph) got tossed into jail where she was billed again for
every day she stayed there. Now, Ms. Ray`s has doubled and she`s at risk
of being re-incarcerated again for a speeding ticket.
Then, there was Hills McGee, a 53-year-old veteran who was thrown in
jail for public drunkenness. McGee, who makes $243 a month in veterans
benefits was fined $270 by the court and then put on probation. The
probation company added a $15 enrollment fee – an enrollment fee for the
privilege of being in their program – and $39 in monthly fees. McGee was
eventually jailed for falling behind on his payments.
There is an entire industry devoted to making money off people like
Richard Garrett and Gina Ray and Hills McGee. The company that`s making
money off them in these particular cases is Judicial Correction Services
Incorporated based in Georgia with offenses in Alabama, Florida, and
Mississippi as well.
Judicial Correction Services hires itself out to court systems and
makes its money by billing the accused. Quote, “Whether your court is
looking for a comprehensive solution to recidivism or just a boost in the
fine collections, Judicial Correction Services has the experience to create
and implement a system of supervision that works for your court.”
Judicial Correction Services offers local courts its trademark
probation tracker software so you can better keep up with offenders, no
need for files of paperwork, the company says, because the folks at JCS can
track each case on their laptops.
The video you see here is, of course, only play acting. The guy in
the incredibly hideous hat that does not match his incredibly weird looking
shirt is a guy trying to look like a criminal.
Just like this jury on the company`s Web site is actually from a stock
photo and not a real trial.
What is real is the lawsuit against JCS and the Alabama officials who
brought the company to town. A lawyer for a firm associated with the case
told “The New York Times,” quote, “With so many economically strapped,
there is growing pressure on the courts to grow in money rather than mete
out justice. These companies that they hire are aggressive. Those
arrested are not told about the right to counsel, or asked whether they are
indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real
constitutional issues at stake.”
For the record, executives at the Judicial Correction Services say
they do try to help people who can`t pay and it is up to the judge to
decide. The executives say their company stands to benefit from keeping
people out of jail and paying.
And that`s how this works, right? The states add on all kinds of fees
from which the state and private companies benefit to get richer and people
keep paying. Happens all across the country.
The nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice looked at the 15 states with
the largest prison populations and they found fees across the board for
simply dealing with the court system. They also found hundreds of people
locked up for failing to pay.
The fees range from paying for a constitutionally mandated public
defender to paying 25 bucks for a visitor in prison. You have to pay to
see a visitor, a friendly face, when you`re locked up.
The fees also amount to a kind of penalty for being poor, defendants
who can`t pay the money find themselves serving more time or staying on
probation longer. The defendants who can`t pay the money don`t. So the
dependants who can`t pay the money who already don`t have that much money
end up owing all the more.
In Illinois, the state adds on 30 percent if you fall behind in your
payments. In New Orleans, it costs you 100 bucks just to sign up for a
The Brennan Center writing, quote, “Certainly, states have a
legitimate interest in creating incentives so that dependants can pay their
debts do pay them. But states need to insure that they do not end
penalizing the truly poor and enriching the private debt collectors at
Joining us now is Thomas Giovanni, director of the community-oriented
Defender Network at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Thomas, thank you so much for being here tonight.
THOMAS GIOVANNI, BRENNAN CENTER: Thank you for having.
KLEIN: I`ve got to ask you just to start to here what`s going to
sound like a dumb question. Why are we doing this? What purpose in the
legal system does it serve to load people up on debt and then throw them
back in jail when they can`t pay it?
It doesn`t seem to be keeping people from reoffending. It`s not
punishing folks just for the crime they did. It`s not rehabilitating.
What is the purpose here?
GIOVANNI: It`s obviously a bad idea as you`ve laid out. But the idea
behind it is that courts are cash-strapped and legislators are not funding
the criminal justice system at the level it needs to be funded. And
they`re desperate to look for people to pay. They can`t force the
legislators, but they do have every client in front of them.
KLEIN: So, that was actually exactly what I wanted to ask you about.
You guys have really done the work tabulating where these are. Are we
seeing the fees go up quicker in states where we have seen deeper cuts in
judicial systems? I mean, is there a clear relationship in the data?
GIOVANNI: There`s not a clear relationship in the data and trend, but
there is a clear trend upward in terms of the activity. Legislatures and
court systems are becoming much more active as they feel the pressure
whether it`s real or imagined. So, it`s not a one to one. But there is
actually more activity from court systems trying to self-fund.
KLEIN: There were some concerns raised in the article about the
overall legality of this. Is this constitutional?
GIOVANNI: There`s two answers. It shouldn`t be constitutional to put
somebody in a cage for not paying a fee they can`t pay. However, there are
a lot of work-arounds to that fundamental Sixth Amendment protection.
People are being put in jail for failure to pay these fines in civil cases
like a contempt case where you don`t have a right to a lawyer. But it`s
the same cage.
KLEIN: And the probation company, they say – because they`re a key
actor here, they say what they`re doing is they`re just helping people to
stay current. They`re helping prevent recidivism. They`re playing a role
in the basically post-jail support network that the courts would be paying
if they had the money. Is there a reason to believe that, that reasonably
GIOVANNI: That`s the first time I have heard the phrase post-jail
No, it really doesn`t help. The way that fees and fines file up
doesn`t actually help somebody on a path to reentry. It actually is a
barrier to reentry. The more you have to do to get back to a normal state,
the worse it is.
For instance, if you can`t pay a fine, a lot of states will keep you
from having a driver`s license. But, of course, you can`t drive to work in
a lot of cities if you don`t have a car, so you can`t pay the fee. This
doesn`t help anything. It actually just piles up fees on people who are
Most of the people in the criminal justice system, 80 percent can`t
afford a lawyer. So, I don`t know why we think they can afford the fees.
KLEIN: And so, is the incentive here the probation companies actually
help the court system make more money? Is that the key and the
GIOVANNI: That`s the goal. I don`t see it happening.
KLEIN: Thomas Giovanni, attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice,
we appreciate you coming by today. Have a great Fourth of July.
GIOVANNI: Thank you.
KLEIN: Still ahead, the very first RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Venn diagram
smackdown. Intersecting circles of doom. I can`t tell you how excited I
am for this.
KLEIN: Since 2010, we`ve been seeing the following pattern.
Republicans win a majority of seats in a state legislature. Then in the
name of cracking down on voter fraud, Republican-led legislature crafts
laws restricting voting rights in their state. Laws that mostly affect
constituencies that traditional vote for Democrats – funny how that
happens. Then the state`s governor signs the bill if he or she is
Republican – or vetoes the bill if he or she is a Democrat. That is how
it tends to go.
For example, in New Hampshire, the Democratic Governor John Lynch
tried to be a one-man bulwark against the voter ID tide by vetoing a law
passed by legislature in his state. That law would require voters to show
a photo ID or sign a voter affidavit – a form that some fear could take
voters a long time to fill out, causing chaos and lines at the heavily
affected polling places.
Last week, New Hampshire lawmakers changed that requirement into
something simpler and overrode the Lynch veto, making New Hampshire the
latest state to require a photo ID. New Hampshire Republicans in other
words made voting harder.
Wisconsin Republicans also made voting harder last year. It`s well
into the next step of the process, inevitable court challenge, which is how
we got to know Ruthel Frank. You remember her? Ms. Frank is in her mid-
80s, a member of the town board where she lives and a lifelong voter.
Ruthel Frank is also one of many people who would lose her ability to
vote under Wisconsin`s new law. For Ms. Frank, the problem was she does
not have a birth certificate or a driver`s license. And the state told her
she would have to spend up to $200 getting the right paperwork so she can
meet the new requirements for doing what she`s done all her adult life,
going to the polls to vote.
Ruthel Frank is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the new Wisconsin
voter ID law, one of three legal challenges against it. And the governor
of Wisconsin who signed away her ability to vote, Scott Walker, has been
defending that law in court. In May, two state lawmakers tried to sign on,
too, saying they also wanted to defend the state`s new law to make voting
harder. They personally wanted to join in the pile-on.
Only these two elected officials would not say how they were paying to
join the case. They didn`t say where the money to pay the attorneys was
coming from, which is an ethics problem actually since state officials
can`t accept outside help like free legal services.
One of the lawmakers said he could not comment because he did not know
who was paying for the legal work.
You know what? Mystery solved, and it wasn`t the butler who did it.
It was the Republican National Committee. A spokesperson admitted that the
RNC were footing the bill all along and defended the national group`s
involvement as, quote, “a common sense way to insure confidence in the
state`s voting system.” Always nice of them.
Mystery solved in Wisconsin. Powerful people are heavily involved in
an effort to consolidate their power, nothing unusual to see here. Human
But it`s happening in Pennsylvania, too. And there, they`re not even
trying to hide what`s going on. Last week, it emerged, the statehouse`s
majority leader, a Republican named Mike Turzai, made a telling admission
at a weekend meeting of the Republican state committee. He said it while
listing his party`s recent accomplishments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP., MIKE TURZAI (R-PA), MAJORITY LEADER: Pro-Second
Amendment, the Castle Doctrine, done. First pro-life legislation, abortion
facility regulations in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow
Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: There it is, all spelled out, making Pennsylvania voters show
ID they never showed before, will allow Governor Romney to win
Pennsylvania. I think he meant to say protect the integrity of the vote.
Dude, you have to keep up appearances on this stuff.
But that, that`s what we`re seeing a lot. That is the trend. In
fact, since the red tide elections of 2010, we have seen 180 bills to make
voting harder. Sixteen states have actually passed laws to do that,
including New Hampshire. Together, these states nearly 80 percent of the
electoral votes needed to win the White House this year, which makes
today`s news from Michigan somewhat startling.
Michigan`s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, was handed a Republican-
crafted package of election laws, and he vetoed it today, at least some of
it. Today, Governor Snyder struck down three bills, one requiring voters
to check a box affirming they are citizens, one adding new eligibility
requirements for groups that register voters, and one requiring absentee
voters to show a photo ID.
The governor criticized the laws for creating confusion and declared,
quote, “Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to
make it possible for people to vote.” Which means that today in Michigan,
the normal script got flipped and the happy reaction quotes came from left-
leaning voter rights groups and the disappointed quotes came from
Republican legislators, like House Speaker Jaise Boulder (ph), whose
spokesman went straight to the bogeymen well with this response to one of
the vetoes, quote, “People who believe they are registering to vote should
have confidence in the process so they know their registrations are being
handled properly. Antics by unscrupulous groups such as ACORN – aha,
ACORN – have proven that protecting the voter registration process is
vital if we hope to preserve the integrity of ballots cast by every
Except that preserving the integrity of ballots thing, that is what
Governor Snyder is getting in trouble with his own party for today.
So the question is, how many other GOP governors are willing to risk
trouble in their party to protect the essential right that protects
KLEIN: When a chart is good, it is very, very, very good. Oh, so
good. When it is bad, it is hilarious.
The Mitt Romney for president campaign is trying to get away from
talking about health care and the Supreme Court and any topic, really, that
doesn`t begin with “econ” and end with “omy.”
The Romney plan is to tie the president to bad economic news and sit
back and watch those Electoral College votes roll in. It is a simple plan
and could work very well.
This week, the message is all about what the Romney campaign claims is
a gap between what the president promised to do and what he actually did.
It is a powerful political point, and one that can be illustrated a number
For example, the campaign has sent out this press release: Why the
jobs promise gap?
According to Romney, the gap is 8 million jobs, because before we knew
how deep the recession was, the president`s economic advisers predicted
unemployment would go down faster than it actually did.
OK, it`s not exactly a light your hair on fire press release, but it
was fine it used the word “gap” in the headline, it was printed on paper.
The whole thing was sort of a mission accomplished. It worked out fine.
In the audio-visual medium, too, the Romney campaign did a fine job
with their gap message this week. This ad is called President Obama`s
middle class promise gap. As you can see, it is about health care, the
deficit, and unemployment. There is a guy talking and there are graphics.
It, too, is fine. Not great, but there`s nothing embarrassing about
it. It`s the kind of thing we`re going to see a lot of before November.
The Romney campaign`s gap message was all going OK when they put it in
print and in a TV ad. The effort to chart it, however, has been somewhat
Now, I know you can chart this. I know you can do it. For an article
last year, I did a chart showing the gap between the president`s initial
projections and the actual unemployment rate. There are lines, one goes in
one direction, another in the other, it can be done.
But the Romney campaign, they tried to get fancy. No simple line
graph for them. They went for the beautiful chart art that is the Venn
Now, here`s an example of a Venn diagram from this very show. Back
when Lady Gaga was arguing repeal of the crazy, stupid “don`t ask, don`t
tell” policy and Rachel was covering the debate over repeal on the show,
the fine folks here made a Venn diagram. As you can see, THE RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW is the circle on the left and the Lady Gaga circle is on the right.
And where they overlap, that space of commonality – that is “don`t ask,
don`t tell.” That is the thing they both have in common.
It makes sense, right? That is what a Venn diagram is good for. It
is showing the thing the two circles have in common, in common, in common.
So what in the name of stat 101 is this? President Obama promises to
stimulus would lower unemployment. That is the circle on the left. So,
I`m with you so far, Romney campaign.
And the actual unemployment rate is 8 percent. That is the circle on
And the thing in the middle, the thing they are supposed to have in
common is the gap between them, it is the thing they don`t have in common?
It`s the difference between the number on the left and the number on the
Guys, Romney campaign, you`re doing it wrong. In fact, you`re doing
it wrong over and over again.
This Venn diagram was posted yesterday. It`s how much President Obama
said health reform would lower premiums on the left and how much Romney
says it didn`t lower premiums on the right. And the difference between
those two numbers, that is in the middle.
Again, the Romney campaign appears to think the space in the middle of
the two connected circles that make up a Venn diagram is where you put the
things that the two circles don`t have in common, where you put the thing
that is not between them.
Which is why I love, love, love upworthy.com today. They made a
couple other Venn diagrams to show the Romney campaign what they are
supposed to be. (INAUDIBLE), right?
So people`s who campaigns have raised $122 million and people with
surprisingly inept graphics staffs. What fits in between those two
circles? Mitt Romney.
People who oppose the individual mandate and people who helped pass
the individual mandate. Who fits in both categories? Mitt Romney. That
is a Venn diagram.
These, these are not Venn diagrams. And trust me on this, Mitt Romney
campaign, in my day job at “The Washington Post” “Wonk Blog,” I work with
charts. I know charts. Charts are a friend of mine. And, Governor
Romney, that is no chart.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Thursday.
Don`t forget, you can check out my work at wonkblog.com or follow me
on Twitter at Twitter.com/ezraklein and on Facebook,
Have a great Fourth of July and it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with
Good evening, Lawrence.
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