Easter weekend TRANSCRIPT: 4/10/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Behold the Edgewood Congregational Church in
Cranston, Rhode Island, “Services cancelled. God is making house calls.”
This is from Athens, Tennessee. “Folks, it`s okay if the church is empty on
Easter, the tomb was empty, too.” Not a bad point.
And this is the Journey of the Faith Church in Windsor Mill, Maryland.
“Jesus rode an ass into Jerusalem. Keep yours at home.” Truer words. Happy
Easter everyone. It`s still Easter with everything else. Stay inside. That
does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Now, it`s time for
“The Last Word” where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening,
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. You have a safe weekend and
I`ll see you on Monday.
And tonight, the stark difference between how some red and blue states are
handling the coronavirus pandemic and why some states are far more
successful at flattening the curve.
Plus, listen to this quote. Trump is treating life-saving medical equipment
as emoluments he can dole our as favors to loyalists. That`s from a
scathing editorial in the “Denver Post” accusing the president of playing
politics amid a national health crisis.
We`ll talk with former Colorado governor and current senate candidate John
Hickenlooper about the controversy that could hurt his state`s ability to
keep its residents alive.
And at the end of tonight`s show, this is an extremely difficult time but
the social distancing measures that we`re following are working. An
important message about sacrifices that we`re making in tonight`s “Last
But we begin tonight with the numbers. The number of deaths linked to the
coronavirus worldwide has now passed 100,000. As of tonight, there are now
nearly 1.7 million reported cases of coronavirus around the globe.
Here in the United States, we`re coming up on the half a million mark for
known infections at 18,638 reported deaths from coronavirus in the United
In New York, where I am, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the
United States, hundreds of new deaths are still being reported daily and
now, there are sobering new images that show the depths of the tragedy that
New York City is facing.
Trenches are being dug on Hart Island in the Bronx. Now, these trenches are
being used as mass grave sites to alleviate overwhelmed morgues around the
city. It`s unclear if these burials include those who have died from
coronavirus or if they are people who have passed away before the pandemic
and are being moved to create space for the newly dead.
Despite this horrific development there is cause for some hope in New York
State, however trepidatious we might be to use the word hope at this time.
Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that for the first time, the number
of coronavirus patients being treated in intensive care units across the
state fell by 17 people from the day before. Now that might seem like a
small number, 17.
But just a week ago, the number of ICU patients was growing by more than
300 a day. It`s a remarkable achievement in a short period of time and it`s
an indication that the social distancing guidelines that most states have
put in place are working.
But just when the social distancing guidelines seem to be working in
certain areas of the country, the president of the United States is pushing
to end those guidelines and re-open the country despite pleas from medical
professionals to stay the course.
This weekend, Easter Sunday will mark the deadline that the president had
originally wanted to re-open schools, businesses and public places. Trump
has now pushed that deadline back to May 1st, but health officials and his
own government agencies are warning that ending these orders too soon could
“The New York Times” reports new federal projections show a spike in
infections if shelter in place orders are lifted at 30 days. “If the
administration lifts the 30-day stay-at-home orders, the death toll is
estimated to reach 200,000 even if schools remain closed until summer, 25
percent of the country continues to work from home and some social
Here is what President Trump said today about his plan for when the country
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to get it open as soon
as we can. We have to get our country open, Jeff.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say, sir, what metrics you will use to make
TRUMP: The metrics right here. That`s my metrics. That`s all I can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now we try not to play a lot of recording from the president on
this show, but we needed to highlight the preposterousness of that
sentiment. For starters, the president has little power to re-open
anything. The White House cannot unilaterally re-open the country.
Though the CDC issues federal guidance, it`s state officials who put the
force of law behind those suggestions. More over, the president can use
actual metric not just the ones in his head when pushing for the country to
open back up. Metrics like the ones Governor Andrew Cuomo has laid out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The key to re-opening is going to be testing.
I`ve said that from day one. It`s not going to be a light switch where you
flip this economy like you flip a light switch. And it`s going to be
reliant on testing – testing of antibodies, testing for diagnostic
results, and testing on a scale that we have not done before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, President Trump claimed today that he would listen to his
advisors if they said it was necessary for the country to remain closed
beyond May 1st, but it`s hard to take the president seriously on that point
when he`s saying demonstrably untrue things about the effectiveness of
stay-at-home orders like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know what? Staying at home leads to death, also. And it`s very
traumatic for this country. But staying at home, if you look at numbers,
that leads to a different kind of death perhaps but it leads to death,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So let`s make this point clear. We should be listening to the
medical experts and the government officials who are listening to the
medical experts. If the president wants to start taking this seriously and
listen to the professionals around him, that`s great.
But until then, we shouldn`t take his words at face value and we should
acknowledge the potential danger that his words pose. Now, fortunately,
there are some voices in the federal government to whom we can listen, whom
we can trust like Dr. Anthony Fauci who would become the scientific voice
of reason during the White House press briefings.
Dr. Fauci has repeatedly urged Americans that now is not the time to stop
the social distancing and for now, it seems that the state officials in
charge for the most part agree with him. Dr. Fauci did provide a little
light at the end of the tunnel moment for us today when he said this to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: I would hope that by November we would have things under such
control that we can have a real degree of normality. That`s my interest and
my job as a public health person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: As much as the president complains about social distancing and
stay-at-home orders, it is important to remember that we are not just
following these guidelines for our own health, but for the health of
Like Jessica Vlaming, a physician`s assistant at Ruth University Medical
Center in Chicago. Jessica is on the front lines fighting coronavirus every
day and she recorded this video diary about the importance of remaining at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA VLAMING, PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT, RUTH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: We
know that social distancing is starting to have an effect and it is
starting to work. We look at the doubling time of new cases and the deaths
and this doubling time is increasing, which is good, but that is a
reflection of the past one to three weeks of how we`ve been acting as a
So, please don`t let this progress set you back and give you a false sense
of security because we need social distancing and isolation to continue and
it takes everyone to participate and everyone to do their part otherwise it
does not work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Leading off our discussion tonight, Dr. Irwin Redlener. He is the
director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness in Columbia
University. He is an MSNBC public health analyst, and Laurie Garrett, a
Pulitzer Prize winning reporter covering global pandemics. She`s a former
senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New
York, and both of these two are people to whom we have been turning for the
last few months to get a good understanding of what is going on.
Irwin, let me just start with you. Where are we in this process? It looks
like the stay at home is working, but every opportunity the president gets,
he looks ready to turn those things around. So, where do you think we are?
IRWIN REDLENER, MSNBC PUBLIC HEALTH ANALYST: Well, where we are is I think
it`s – it was actually good, of course, to see the data that Cuomo and
others presented that looks like things may be leveling off, but really
it`s only been a few days.
We have no idea of how long it`s going to take the system to really show
results that we are actually, you know, turning around the curve and we`re
slowing down and we`re having less deaths and less ICU admissions, et
That may be, but I`ll tell you something, the president needs to be very,
very careful, Ali, about over promising the American public about whenever
it is that we`re going to decide to reverse some of the restrictions, which
we all want to do. Everybody wants to get back to work and back to their
But if you over promise and then we see a second surge and a second wave,
which I think is almost inevitable at this point, not only are people going
to lose even more confidence than they`ve already lost than the president,
but it also represent a danger of people feeling like they can suddenly be
not worried about that contracting this virus, which is still going to be
I mean, that`s one of the reasons that we`re going to see resurgence. And
if we get a resurgence after being, in a sense, promised by the president
that everything is fine, we can go back to business as usual even we go
there gradually, that`s going to have an economic repercussion as well that
I shudder to think of what`s that going to do to our sense of confidence in
So, the president really needs to be very, very careful and I`m very
worried about, you know, what`s in here as these criteria for beginning to
loosen the restrictions. We are going to need data and we`re going to need
a lot of it and that data is going to come from a lot of testing and it`s
going to come from a renewed interest in tracing contacts of people that
may have been affected.
So, a lot of work to be done. Hopefully, it will happen quickly, but we
have a lot of work to do before we can say now is the time to start letting
people go into society again.
VELSHI: And Laurie, you know, you and I have been talking about this for a
while with Irwin, with other public health experts, all of whom, I mean,
there are certainly variations amongst experts on what, you know, re-
entering or re-opening America looks like. But that`s not really the nuance
that is reflected in what the president has to say.
It seems that there is a real fight in the White House amongst those who
think that the economic damage that is – gets done by continuing to stay
at home is politically very dangerous for the president and he doesn`t want
to head toward a November election with people still sitting at home.
LAURIE GARRETT, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING REPORTER: We definitely have that
tension between ongoing balancing money versus jobs, versus stopping this
epidemic. I think we fortunately don`t have to make it up out of whole
cloth. We can look and see what other countries that are ahead of us on the
curve of this epidemic have done.
And we can see that in China they`ve issued two kinds of tests. Every
single person has to get two different tests in order to get a card on
their or an app on their phone that signals that they`re certified okay and
they can travel and leave Wuhan.
One of them is an antibody test and one of them is a PCR test. So, one is
measuring the presence or absence of virus and the other is measuring
whether or not the person ever was infected. No, we don`t have either of
those tests, routinely available right now.
And it`s inconceivable that we could in the next 20 days have 360 million
antibody tests and 360 million PCR virus tests and the capacity and a
system set up such as the scale of what`s going on right now in China so
that we can test everybody and say you, you can go back to school. You, you
can go back to work. You, you need to go into quarantine.
We don`t have that. So in 20 days, you know, we`re going to suddenly tell
everybody go back to work? Go back to the streets? The other thing is that
I`m sure Irwin would back me up on this 100 percent. The weather is going
to get better and better every single day going forward now.
And everybody, you know, cabin fever is tolerable when you look outside the
window and it`s gross out there and it`s cold and it`s yucky. But the
tulips are coming up. The forsythia is blooming. And it`s going to get
harder and harder and harder to get people to stay inside as they look out
the window and it`s gorgeous.
And it`s, you know, if we don`t have a 100 percent commitment coming down
from government, clear message, there is going to be people scattering out
to see the flowers, to take a roam, have a quick walk.
VELSHI: Yes. I`m going to grow a full a head of hair before we get a free -
- before we get a clear message from the government, I think. Irwin, let`s
just talk about this. At some point, we`ll have a vaccine and that will be
VELSHI: But the fact is, at this point, it does not look practical that
we`re able to test everybody for coronavirus. We have some people who are
presumed to have it and if they isolate themselves or are treated for it,
many of them, most of them get better – unfortunately some die.
Now, at some point we`ve got these tests that Laurie is talking about. Is
it practical that at some point we are able to test 100 percent of the
population for either the PCR or the antibodies to be able to determine who
is safe to go back to work, and if we had all those met metrics, could we
then actually have a serious discussion about how we get back to work in
REDLENER: Well, we certainly would be a hell of a lot closer to being able
to make that determination. I completely agree with Laurie that we`re so
far behind in terms of both kinds of testing and we will need both kinds of
I`m sorry to say to that, those tests that may be negative, you know,
today, may not be negative in a week or two. We`re going to have to figure
out systems for tracking people with symptoms, retesting them, if
There`s not going to be any single passport that`s going to say I`m
completely fine going forward forever. That`s just not going to be
happening. And, you know, for people that are in charge of workplaces or
schools, they`re going to need a lot of guidance and direction and
protocols for how we`re going to manage a return that is going to happen
eventually. But thinking about this in the next 30 or even 60 days in my
mind is not likely going to happen at all.
VELSHI: Thank you to both of you, Dr. Irwin Redlener and Laurie Garrett.
Thanks for joining us. Coming up, thanks to the video diaries from the E.R.
and interviews with doctors and nurses. We`ve got a clearer picture of what
our health care heroes are facing at work, but we don`t always see the
enormous sacrifices that they are making at home.
Coming up next, we`re going to talk to an E.R. doctor in Kentucky who is
taking extraordinary steps to keep his family safe as he exposes himself to
the virus every single day.
VELSHI: Now, a glimmer of good news from Kentucky where the state`s patient
zero has made a full recovery, but as NBC`s Miguel Almaguer reports, it was
not an easy road.
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the state of
Kentucky, Julia Donohue was the first known coronavirus patient.
JULIA DONOHUE, FORMER CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: I`d be gasping for air and it
felt like I was suffocating.
ALMAGUER (voice-over): Donohue spent nine days on a ventilator and almost
didn`t make it to her 28th birthday.
DONOHUE: Nobody is safe from the virus. You don`t know how it`s going to
VELSHI: Kentucky started social distancing on March 7th. Today, Kentucky
Democratic Governor Andy Beshear announced a new order heading into the
Easter weekend. If a person goes to a mass gathering this weekend, that
person`s license plate will be recorded and the information will be given
to local health departments.
Local health officials will then go to that person`s door with a 14-day
self-quarantine notice. Joining me now is Dr. Zach Armstrong, he`s an
emergency room doctor at the University of Louisville Jewish hospital.
Dr. Armstrong, thank you for being with us. You are – let`s first talk
about you. You`re going in dealing with the emergency patients every day.
How is that going?
ZACH ARMSTRONG, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Thankfully, in Kentucky it`s
going rather well. Beshear has put a lot of things in place that have kept
our cases and our case load lower so far in Kentucky and we have not seen
the number that a lot of other places have seen so far.
So, I think we are best case scenario at the moment and I don`t know if
there is a best case everywhere, but I think I`m thankful for what we have
at the moment.
VELSHI: Talk to me about what you`re doing. You have you have a family and
you are, in theory, exposed to people with coronavirus every day. How are
you living? How are you dealing with that?
ARMSTRONG: Well, for us, you know, the decision was kind of difficult. I`m
currently in a trailer on the street outside of our house. I`m going to be
exposed to coronavirus every time I go to work. That`s a given. I can do
what I can to protect myself and thankfully I`m in a health care system
that`s doing very well managing PPE and taking care of its employees and
And so I don`t worry about that so much, but it`s not – the risk isn`t
zero and, you know, people are dying from this of all ages and it was just
a much more – better option for us for me to kind of eliminate myself as a
variable for my family.
If I`m not there, they don`t really have on exposure and hopefully they can
ride it out safely and I hope it`s that way, too, but, you know, at least
if I can take that variable away from them, then I`m happy to do that.
VELSHI: I want to just sort of compare Kentucky to Tennessee. There are 36
cases of coronavirus per thousand people in Kentucky. There are 72 cases
per thousand people in Tennessee.
The number of deaths is about the same at this point but according to a
“Buzzfeed” article, “The peak in Kentucky is now projected to be at mid-
May, roughly a month after Tennessee`s and that`s a sign that the state
took more effective measures to flatten the curve and spread out serious
The title on that article, “The National Coronavirus Experiment is Playing
Out in Kentucky and Tennessee.” The implication is that Kentucky from a
policy – from a public health policy standpoint is being more effective.
Do you share that view?
ARMSTRONG: I think it has – I think the measures put in place by our state
government have been effective. I really, you know, I`m not – I don`t have
access to all the numbers. It`s not what I do. I`m working more on a
patient to patient basis.
But at least in what I`m seeing day to day in the emergency department, I
think it`s been effective. We`re having cases, everywhere is, but we
haven`t seen a huge influx in what we have at the moment. Hopefully it
stays that way.
Hopefully it`s a much more gradual appearance of these cases because that
does make it easier to manage and allows our hospital system to kind of
absorb that and have the resources necessary to take care of those
You know, it`s that big surge that we all fear, you know, that storm that`s
coming. And from at least in my experience, I think Kentucky has done a
very good job of trying to minimize that. So, that`s firsthand from what
VELSHI: Well, from the projections, the storm is still coming. You look
like you`re about a month away from it. We wish you well. Must be difficult
for you to maintain that separation from your family when you really – I
think at the end of the day, just want to see them and hug them.
But thank you for all you`re doing. You represent a group of people who are
keeping us all safe and healthy across this country. Dr. Zach Armstrong is
an emergency room doctor at the University of Louisville Jewish hospital.
Coming up, Donald Trump is playing political games with lives. Those are
the words of the editorial board at the “Denver Post” after the Trump
administration stepped in to take an order of 500 ventilators that the
state of Colorado had ordered from a private company.
Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who is now a Democratic Senate
candidate – John Hickenlooper – will join us next on that.
VELSHI: Now to a state that`s been called an emerging hotspot, Colorado.
The NBC station in Denver reported the story of Dr. Anna Zimmerman, a
neonatologist whose job is treating young children. And then her four-year-
old son contracted coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Sneezing turned into a fever. Fever
became trouble breathing. Lincoln spent seven days at Rocky Mountain
Hospital for Children. The same hospital where his mom works and where his
mom says he tested positive for COVID-19.
ANNA ZIMMERMANN, NEONATOLOGIST: And so I went from I`m a mom, I`m a
pediatrician, I`m not worried about my son at all to, oh my gosh, he is
getting worse every hour and I`m watching him get worse every hour and how
far down the line are we going to go, and being really, really scared.
VELSHI: OK. Rashad Lincoln (ph) back at home now. He`s recovered. But this
is a reminder that the virus doesn`t discriminate by age. Tonight, Colorado
has 6,510 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and officials predict that the
virus is not going to peak in the state until May.
In an effort to prepare for those projections, Colorado`s Democratic
Governor Jared Polis wanted more ventilators in his state. And because
Donald Trump has told the states to essentially fend for themselves, the
Governor Polis arranged to purchase 500 ventilators from a private company.
Then the Trump administration blocked the order. FEMA took the ventilators
for itself. Governor Polis described the infuriating situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Either be in or out, folks. That`s kind of my
message. Either you`re buying them and you`re providing to the states and
you`re letting us know what we`re going to get them and when we`re going to
get them or stay out and let us buy them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: On Wednesday, President Trump announced the federal government
would be sending 100 ventilators to Colorado at the request of Republican
Senator Cory Gardner, who is a vulnerable incumbent who`s up for reelection
Now, Colorado is still 400 ventilators short of the original order. “The
Denver Post”” made the ventilator debacle the subject of a scathing
editorial, writing, quote, “President Donald Trump is treating life-saving
medical equipment as emoluments that he can dole out as favors to
loyalists. It`s the worst imaginable form of corruption, playing political
games with lives. For the good of this nation during what should be a time
of unity, he must stop. We find it hard to believe decisions are being made
on such a morally bankrupt basis, but Trump is doing this nation no favors
by giving us the impression that politics will drive his administration`s
response to a virus that has already killed thousands of Americans and will
kill thousands more.”
Joining us now, the Former Democratic Governor of Colorado, John
Hickenlooper. He was a presidential candidate, and he is running for the
U.S. Senate against Cory Gardner.
Governor, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us. This story is
kind of hard to believe because it was hard to believe for most Americans
when they would listen to those press briefings with the President who said
basically everybody is in it for themselves, Jared Kushner said we have a
stockpile and the states have to deal with their own stuff. So Colorado
took the President at face value and ordered its own ventilators.
FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D) COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes. Well, it`s
hard to imagine that this is the reality that we face. And I give Governor
Polis a lot of credit. And obviously, Colorado is grateful for the 100
ventilators we got, but what is the process by which you get measured?
When I was Governor, we had - the federal government was careful and made
sure that that population and infection rates and overall need would be the
criteria by which necessary supplies that you don`t have enough of, that`s
how they would be circulated and distributed. That`s obviously not
happening if you`re using them as political favors.
VELSHI: Governor, talk to me about how you think this went down. Because
Governor Polis orders these through a private company, FEMA then takes the
order for itself, and then apparently, Cory Gardner has made a request for
some, and the President now, as a courtesy to Cory Gardner, lets this go.
That`s the thing that`s got “The Denver Post” hot under the collar. The
editorial went out of its way to not be broadly critical of the Trump
administration`s handling of this, but highly specifically, of what they
are calling an emolument, a favor, to Senator Cory Gardner.
HICKENLOOPER: Well, they were outraged, and they weren`t the only ones. I
mean, I probably had more people talk to me in the last 24 hours about this
one issue than anything I`ve heard certainly in this entire crisis. I mean,
the very fact that people`s lives are at stake where doctors - you just saw
a doctor having to worry about her own child - and people are uncertain if
we`ll have enough ventilators. We know we don`t have enough face masks.
Where is all the PPE that people have every right to expect?
We`re not - as government, we are not delivering, and I think at the end
it`s reflecting very well upon governors - Governor Polis, Governor Inslee
in Washington, Governor Cuomo in New York. All these governors are stepping
up and making the hard decisions, going out into open markets and trying
not to compete with each other.
Governor Newsom is trying to create a consortium. I mean, that`s what the
federal government (inaudible) - organize this in a systematic way so it`s
distributed fairly, the ventilators are distributed, the face masks, all
this infrastructure necessary for a medical response, make sure it`s fair
to every state.
VELSHI: I want to ask you about what “The Denver Post” continued reporting
on. “Colorado has successfully pushed back its expected peak in coronavirus
cases until at least next month, an important shift to give health
officials and hospitals more time to prepare for a potential surge in
COVID-19 patients, a top state public health official said.” This is
outside of the editorial. This is separate reporting.
Tell me what the situation is in the state because you do have a lot of
HICKENLOOPER: Well, we do have a lot of cases. And again, I think Governor
Polis took early action. Mayor Hancock in Denver also took strong early
action. And that kind of leadership taking this seriously right from the
beginning is what Colorado needed and I think it`s what the country needs.
I think we are clearly flattening the peak, and we`re going to have -
because of that, we`re not going to have as much pressure at one time on
I mean, that`s - that`s the worst nightmare if you talk to any doctor or
the executives of any hospital that they end up with people in critical
condition and no place to put them, no intensive care units with enough
beds to service everyone who`s needed, and then you have to decide who gets
care and who doesn`t - the worst situation for any medical professional.
VELSHI: What do you think of the federal government`s response with respect
to Colorado? The Governor has taken swift action in Colorado, and that does
seem to be helping. But Colorado is a test case for what the President
said, that states should handle their own matters when it comes to
stockpiles and emergency management. That`s not the understanding that most
American citizens had about the way things go, but we`re learning that
that`s what the President thinks should happen. This is an instance where
that hasn`t worked exactly.
HICKENLOOPER: Well, this is not the first time that the President has said
one thing and then 24 hours or 48 hours later has completely reversed
himself, which in a time of crisis is one of the worst things you can do
because people need to - they have to have confidence and trust in their
leadership, they have to know what they`re hearing is fact-based and they
can rely on it.
I don`t want to keep litigating this issue about the ventilators. We are
grateful we`ve got the 100 ventilators. I know Governor Polis will do
everything possible to make sure we get the ventilators we need in time to
- so that they can be useful.
But we also should be looking at why we still don`t have testing capacity.
I mean, at some point, we`re going to want to transition back into an
economy that`s going to grow again, and if people don`t have confidence
that - where if they`re going into a retail store or a coffee shop or
whatever, if they don`t know that they`re safe going out, they`re not going
to go out. And - but certainly not go out in numbers.
We don`t even have a fraction of the testing capacity we need to begin
moving back into a transition back into an economy. I think that - I mean,
all of these things - it`s the face masks. How do we have food workers make
sure they`ve got face masks so they can handle food safely. All these
things are not getting the attention they need.
VELSHI: Senator - Governor, good to see you. Democratic Senate candidate,
John Hickenlooper, Former Governor of Colorado. Thank you for joining us
HICKENLOOPER: Thanks so much.
VELSHI: Coming up, the economic crisis, which is now being talked about in
terms of a depression rather than a recession. What might federal help
start to do and how much will go toward helping regular people, many of
whom are out of work dealing with the bills that are piling up? That`s
VELSHI: The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic is growing
as the shutdown of the country goes on. Nearly 17 million Americans filed
for unemployment in just the last three weeks. But that might not be the
full picture, as economist Betsey Stevenson points out, 6 million to 7
million unemployment insurance initial claims per week might be telling us
that that`s the system`s capacity to process claims per week, not how many
people are trying.
Many people are now turning to food banks. This stunning photo is of 10,000
people waiting at a food bank in San Antonio. A food bank worker in New
York says these lines are different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD SLIZESKI, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BROOKLYN:
There`s people coming who`ve never come to a food pantry in their lives.
That`s a big difference. And for some people to realize that that`s their
need, it`s a tough thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining us now is Betsey Stevenson who served as a member of the
President`s Council of Economic Advisors and as the Chief Economist at the
Department of Labor in the Obama administration, as well as Jared
Bernstein, Former Chief Economist and Former Economic Policy Advisor to
Vice President Biden He`s a CNBC contributor.
Betsey, I want to start with you because your comments about the 6-million-
plus people who filed for first-time unemployment benefits roughly two
weeks in a row does draw one to wonder. It`s like, it`s kind of interesting
how the numbers were almost exactly the same. People have reported
difficulty in being able to file for their unemployment benefits. So you`re
thinking there might be a backlog, there might just be more people who
haven`t been able to do it.
BETSEY STEVENSON, FORMER MEMBER, PRESIDENT`S COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC: Well,
these are just extraordinary numbers that we`re seeing every week. Just not
that long ago, a month ago, they were trying to process 200,000 claims a
week, and now we`re asking, at really the same people, the same computer
systems to process, 6 million to 7 million claims a week, I mean, it`s
actually extraordinary that they`re doing that many, and it wouldn`t
surprise me at all if that`s just the maximum capacity.
What that means is even though the economy has been shut in a lot of states
for several weeks now, we`re going to see people continuing to apply for
unemployment insurance as we work through that backlog.
VELSHI: So, Jared, people think that maybe 10 percent of the working
population is out of work right now. I`ve heard some estimates that it`s 13
percent, I`ve heard estimates from the St. Louis Fed that it could go up to
32 percent. We talk about 6 million people a week.
What that does is it takes away the reality of the story that there were 40
million Americans who were food insecure before this thing started. And
then you see those lines, and you realize there are people who never
thought they`d be at a food bank, who`ve never been to a food bank, but for
whom this may be their reality as they wait while the government processes
a $1,200 check for them or while their unemployment payment gets processed.
JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: You`re
raising a really important point, which is the economic fragility of so
many families in this nation before the virus hit. We know from lots of
research that families in the bottom half of the income scale have very
little, even zero or negative amount of savings, meaning they`re indebted.
And these are folks who typically don`t receive paid leave. So if they`re
laid off or furloughed, they don`t get a paycheck. And that is a stark
difference in the curt economy between people who are still drawing
paychecks and people who aren`t.
And it doesn`t surprise me, I hate to say, when hearing the numbers that
you and Betsey were just reflecting on, to see these kinds of food banks
when you recognize just how uninsulated so many American families are from
this kind of probation a couple of weeks away from real concerns about
meeting basic needs, putting food on the table, avoiding eviction.
VELSHI: Betsey, I want to ask you because you were a chief economist at the
Department of Labor. I want to quote from “The Washington Post” in which it
says, “In recent days, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who has expressed
concern about unemployment insurance being too generous, has used his
department`s authority over new laws enacted by Congress to limit who
qualifies for joblessness assistance and to make it easier for small
businesses not to pay family leave benefits. The new rules make it more
difficult for gig workers like Uber and Lyft drivers to get benefits while
making it easier for some companies to avoid paying their workers
coronavirus-related sick and family leave.”
It does underscore the fact that the United States is distinct amongst
developed nations in not actually having adequate preparation for things
like this. It is harder to get benefits as American worker than it is in
most western countries.
STEVENSON: Well, we seem to be trying on the one hand to bolster our safety
net. That`s what Congress did with the CARES Act. They tried to expand the
amount of unemployment insurance that was available to expand it to a wider
group of people. And then you have the Department of Labor trying to undo
some of the bill that the President of the United States just signed into
So we do have a weak safety net. That weak safety net is difficult for us
in this situation. It`s worth thinking about the fact that where did
unemployment insurance come from. It came out of the Great Depression where
we knew we needed a better system to support people.
And I think there will be real questions about what kind of safety net do
we really need in the United States as we come out of this pandemic.
VELSHI: Jared, there is an interesting experiment going on with the
airlines right now, and we`re not sure where this is going to go. I want to
read you from CNBC. It says, “Treasury guidelines states the department
said it may demand warrants, options, preferred stock or securities in
exchange for the grants that are going to airlines. Industry members,
unions and others have argued that if the Treasury Department is too
aggressive in its demands, such as by insisting on large equity stakes, it
could deter airlines from taking the grants altogether.”
The experiment was to give the airlines money that was to pay their staff,
to keep their staff on payroll. End of story. Those were grants, very
similar to the small business loans that are going out.
Now, Mnuchin is talking about transferring that to an equity or an
ownership stake, which is an interesting discussion for us to have another
time as to whether that`s valid, but what is at stake is the deal to keep
these airline employees paid.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. Well, by the way, that`s what we did when you talk about
taking a stake in the companies. That`s what we did with the auto
companies, and that worked out well. Look, the airlines need help if
they`re going to avoid bankruptcy. And by the way, just to be clear, many
of the airlines we know and fly today and who are highly profitable have
been through bankruptcy numerous times before. So it doesn`t scare me when
they talk about that.
Look, what I`d say to the airlines if any of them are listening, to those
executives, if you don`t want to hold the American taxpayer harmless while
we provide you with grants so that you can survive this, then go ahead and
shop elsewhere. I`m not at all moved by their threats that if the
government doesn`t help them, they`ll look for help elsewhere. That`s kind
of a deal of a quid pro quo. We help you, you help us. There`s no reason
for there not to be the kind of conditionality on these grants or loans, or
for that matter, any of the other policies that are helping businesses
VELSHI: Thanks to both of you, Betsey Stevenson and Jared Bernstein, for
joining us tonight.
If you`re worried about your finances these days, tomorrow morning on my
show, I`ll be talking to Suze Orman, personal finance guru. She`s going to
join us with her advice on what people can do to weather the economic
crisis. So I`ll be talking to her at 9 o`clock a.m. tomorrow.
Coming up, if you`re feeling down about a holiday weekend spent in
isolation, we`ve got something to show you that might make you feel a
little better and prouder about what you and all of us are doing in this
extraordinary time. That`s next in tonight`s Last Word.
VELSHI: The City of Detroit has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, Detroit City residents account for over 25 percent of the 1,281
reported coronavirus deaths in Michigan. But Detroit may be turning a
corner in its battle against the coronavirus.
According to the Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, the coronavirus is, quote,
“starting to weaken in the Motor City.”
Here`s Mayor Duggan this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN (D-MI): We`re seeing the beginning of a glimmer of light.
The trends that we`re seeing, it`s not because the doctors and the nurses
do anything different. They`ve been doing a phenomenal job from day one.
The reason this is flattening out is because of you. The people of this
city have been honoring social distancing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: A local ad agency in Detroit recognized the importance of
practicing social distancing. So it made a video to tell the story that the
people of Detroit and, frankly, the people across the country making tough
sacrifices in this pandemic needed to hear and probably still need to hear,
perhaps more than ever right now when many Americans would be celebrating
Passover and Easter with their family and friends or just outside enjoying
the arrival of spring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): It feels unnatural to not be in motion,
for the city built on four wheels to stand still. But these vacant streets,
empty stadiums are not signs of our retreat, but of our resolve. This is
not us sitting out the fight. This is us winning it. Our fist doesn`t need
to move to have strength.
If he were alive today, even Henry himself would have put it in park. So
take this isolation as a sign of our togetherness, as we take care of
ourselves and the ones close, because although it`s time for America`s
motor to stop, we`re coming back with all eight cylinders. Because here, we
don`t stop in the name of fear. Here, we stop in the name of love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Joining us now is the writer of that ad, the Executive
Creative Director at Doner Detroit Advertising, Michael Stelmaszek.
Michael, that is some remarkable writing in there. But before we get to the
way you put this together - I mean, it`s so Detroit, and it`s so specific
to Detroit, your musical allusions and the automobile allusions and the
manufacturing work, and yet it is a universal message. It`s not just sort
of interesting to those of us who don`t live in Detroit. I can`t imagine
anybody in the world not appreciating the way you put that together. How
did you conceive of this? Because the way you`re thinking about it, I
think, is cathartic for the rest of us.
MICHAEL STELMASZEK, EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, DONER DETROIT ADVERTISING
& WRITER, “WHEN THE MOTOR STOPS”: Well, first of all, thank you very much
for the kind words. But the real inspiration for the piece came from
wanting to help. It`s an instinct that I`m sure so many of us have these
days, of wanting to do something.
And a young man, a really smart guy in our strategic planning department
named Alex Demuth reached out to a few of us, and he said, look, we`re an
advertising agency, we don`t have manufacturing capability. We can`t make
ventilators, we`re not going to make a million masks a month like others.
But we have creativity. We have tremendous production resources. So he
called our Director of Content Zeke Anders and myself, and he said, let`s
see what we can do.
VELSHI: And I think that`s the part that resonates with the rest of us
because what`s going on out there is - it does feel like a war. It does
feel like battle. People are actually dying. It is changing our lives. And
yet, there are some people, our frontline workers, our EMTs, our police,
our doctors, our nurses, our essential workers who are still out there
risking their lives, but there are many of us whose job it is to stay home
and not doing so may risk our lives and the lives of our fellow country
STELMASZEK: You`re right. And I think some of that is that the solution is
kind of counterintuitive. Right? Like I said, we all want to jump in and
help. We want to take action. We want to band together with others and come
together and solve this thing and get out and do what needs to be done. But
what needs to be done right now is stay apart from people, stay in our
homes. And so, by reframing that, repositioning that as not sitting out the
fight but winning it is not resigning ourselves to anything but a sign of
And also from the Detroit standpoint, I think while the global messages are
good, something of, by, and for Detroit, hopefully it`s hitting home a
little bit better.
VELSHI: A city that has known adversity before and will overcome it again.
This is not us sitting out the fight. This is us winning it.
Michael Stelmaszek, thank you for joining us. That is tonight`s “Last
Word”. I`m Ali Velshi. I`ll see you back here tomorrow morning on “Velshi”
with a special guest, Suze Orman.
And another programming note, Sunday night, Richard Engel explores the
lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic, “On Assignment: Pandemic” airs
Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern here on MSNBC.
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” begins now.
Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the