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Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 10/17/15

Guests: Kai Wright, Carmen Rita Wong, Jeffrey Miron, Matt Welch, JoshuaPerry, Nina Khrushcheva, Noah Shachtman, Dawayne Cleckly, ShareseCrouther, Mikala Greenidge

MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) their doors and reconsidering sentencing minors to life in prison. But first, the hottest thing from this week`s Democratic debate. Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And a most remarkable thing happened at the first Democratic primary debate this week. The top two contenders for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party had a substantive discussion about the pros and cons of capitalism. Capitalism. Something so embedded in our idea of America itself that it seems like a given. So much so that we might not even know what we mean when we say capitalism. But we know that it has something to do with competition, with the free market and with the promise that you will succeed or fail based on your own abilities, your pluck, your hard work. Or the classic hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan might define capitalism, "Cash rule everything around me, CREAM." See my point? When even the oppositional youth culture is devoted to capitalism as a basic organizing principle, then you know that anyone who wants to be president certainly isn`t going to question it. Except that is exactly what happened earlier this week. In a scene that had been unimaginable in American politics since the Cold War began. Two mainstream presidential contenders vying for the nomination of one of the two major political parties shifted the language from capitalism to capitalism. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You don`t consider yourself a capitalist though? BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process, by which so few have so much and so many have so little? By which Wall Street`s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don`t. I believe in a society where all people do well. (APPLAUSE) SANDERS: Not just the handful of billionaires. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Okay, okay. But the thing is, we`ve come to expect that from Senator Sanders. Socialist since his college days. He`s become pretty well practiced at defending his brand of Democratic socialism. Especially when confronted with polls that say Americans would more willingly vote for an atheist, gay or Muslim presidential candidate than for a Socialist. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Ac: How can any kind of a socialist win a general election in the United States? SANDERS: We`re going to win because first we`re going to explain what democratic socialism is. And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of one percent in this country own almost 90 percent. Own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong today in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top one percent. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Okay, okay, but again, we expect that from the good senator from Vermont. But here`s what`s crazy. In Tuesday night`s debate, even Hillary Clinton seen by many as the most mainstream of mainstream modern capitalists, the presumptive Democratic nominee, she wanted to get in on the capitalism question too. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AC: Is there anybody else on this stage who`s not a capitalist? HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me just follow up on that, Anderson. Because when I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families. (APPLAUSE) CLINTON: And I don`t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, don`t miss that. Because Secretary Clinton just talked about, quote, "saving capitalism from itself." And then she went on to say this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: We are the United States of America and it`s our job to rein in the excess of the capitalism so that it doesn`t run amok and doesn`t cause the kind of inequities that we`re seeing in our economic system. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Now, for me, the only thing more surprising than having a debate about capitalism among top presidential candidates is that we`re having the debate right now. Because we didn`t seem to really have this debate in 2008, you know, when the financial system that undergirds our capitalist economy kind of completely fell apart weeks before the election. We didn`t have the debate in 2010, excuse me, in 2012, amid a conversation about wealth and equality in the wake of Occupy Wall Street as a movement. Now, we`re debating capitalism now. Now, in the midst of a recovery. When the unemployment rate is just over five percent. That`s way down. And now when things are far from perfect, but we`re no longer in crisis mode about the economy, now we`re asking, is capitalism actually good for America. And it`s not even entirely clear how we`re going to answer. Joining me now, Matt Welch, editor and chief of "Reason" magazine. Carmen Rita Wong who is author of "The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, the Life and Your Money." Kai Wright, features editor for "The Nation" magazine. And Jeffrey Miron, who is director of Economic Studies at the CATO Institute. And director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Thanks to everybody for being here. So, I`m going to start with the Harvard professor. (LAUGHTER) HARRIS-PERRY: How is it that capitalism is supposed to work? Like so even beyond the question of whether or not it`s operating in that way, in a given nation, including ours, what are the kind of underpinning beliefs of capitalism? JEFFREY MIRON, DIR. OF UNDERGRAD STUDIES, DEPT. OF ECON., HARVARD: The crucial things about capitalism is that businesses are allowed to enter and try to do whatever they want and they`re allowed to fail. So, the government is never putting its hand on the balance in either direction. So it`s not taxing particular industries or subsidizing any industries. It`s not bailing out industries that are failing. It`s just letting the marketplace determine what survives and what doesn`t. And the claim is that when we do that, we get an efficient production. We get the most output per unit of inputs. We get a very productive healthy economy. HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels to me like - like part of what undergirds are a set of assumptions. So that idea that we get the most efficient has everything to do with a belief about how individuals then enter into that marketplace the way that they make choices, how much information they have, and that feels to me like part of what was going on in that debate, was the sort of what capitalism might be good in theory, but it isn`t in practice. But now you were tweeting that you were going to come here and defend capitalism. (LAUGHTER) HARRIS-PERRY: So go for it. MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF REASON MAGAZINE: Nick Kristof. Let`s sort of take a big picture globally ... HARRIS-PERRY: You`re going to start with Nick Kristof? Here were go. All right. WELCH: A guy who is not necessarily known for being a market fundamentalist. He had an interesting column earlier this month talking about the greatest contemporary story, that isn`t really told, which is the incredible reduction of poverty over the last 20 years. 25 years in the world. We`ve had - we`ve gone from extreme poverty of 35 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2011. That happened around the world. And not because people woke up and said we need more Bernie Sanders-like policies. It happened because places that were much more closed, opened up. They allowed for capital flows. They allowed to those casino horrible stock market things to happen. That is an amazing story that we forget at our peril. HARRIS-PERRY: So I hear you. Nick Kristof, though, also for me, part of what he misses is that there`s two ways to measure a question, like sort of where are we on poverty. One is the floor, which has clearly come up globally. And then the other is the gap, right? And so, yes, the floor of poverty has come up, but the gap has widened. And so that applause that we heard from Senator Sanders is really about the gap, not about the floor. KAI WRIGHT, FEATURES EDITOR, THE NATION: Well, I want to talk about the floor. HARRIS-PERRY: OK. WRIGHT: I mean the reality is that in the United States when we look at poverty, yes, there - poverty programs, yes, have worked for certain people, for seniors, we have all but eradicated, brought up the floor of poverty. But if you look around the country, poverty has deepened in the United States to historic terms at this point. If you look at the concentration of it, and the depth of it, so not just the number of people who are living below poverty, but the number of people who are living below half the poverty rate has grown. So the floor, in fact, has fallen for a lot of people. CARMEN RITA WONG, AUTHOR "THE REAL COST OF LIVING": And let me talk about the gap. I`ll take on the middle. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. WONG: The 80 percent of Americans in the middle. When we look at that, look at the one stat - and this is one I love. To really show how capitalism can run amok, which is what - she`s referring to - 50 years ago, CEO pay was 20-1. Now it`s about 364-1. Now, tell me how that is capitalism working so that jobs are created. Yes, OK. We`ve recovered. Don`t forget that the reason we`re hearing and talking about this right now as she mentioned at the top - why we are talking about this right now. If we recovered. Well, middle America hasn`t recovered. We didn`t participate in that recovery. What you have is stagnant wages, social structure, and most people define when they look at capitalism versus socialism, besides all the scariness of that word, socialism, what they see is, that means, do not give free health care to anybody, do not help out people without of work. It`s a very different definition of the business, the economic definition, and the public`s definition. HARRIS-PERRY: So, in fact, in fact, actually Mr. Trump who`s running for the Republican nomination said something very similar in his response to what happened on that debate stage. Let`s take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched Hillary last night with we`re going to give this, we`re going to give that. We`re going to give that. She`s the poor woman, she`s got to give everything away because this maniac that was standing on our right is giving everything away so she`s following! That`s what`s happening! This socialist/communist, okay, nobody wants to say it. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] TRUHARRIS-PERRY: No. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: And genially a great piece of sound, but I want to go to the Kai`s point as well here, which is in part this idea that okay, to the extent that that floor has come up, a lot of it does have to do with our largest sort of socialist giveaway in this country, which did, in fact, address poverty for the elderly in this country. MIRON: So, that`s all right. But I think it`s useful to parse Sander`s position a little bit. He`s not actually criticizing capitalism versus socialism, the way we would 50 years ago. He`s talking about redistribution. He is not actually saying that the marketplace is bad, and producing the most stuff. He doesn`t like the way the marketplace allocates who gets that stuff. And so the response is, well, are the policies that redistribute helping the right people. How costly are they. And all of that. It`s not about should the government own the railroad industry. Should the government take over all these different industries the way it did in Britain in the 1950s? HARRIS-PERRY: OK, I think to me - I want to come back to exactly that topic as soon as we come back. As that is for me a key difference. This isn`t about government ownership of the means of production. Instead, it really is a question about the tax structure. We can talk about that when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn`t mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top one percent. (APPLAUSE) SANDERS: So, what we need to do is support small and medium sized businesses, the backbone of our economy. But we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake. Ac: We are going to have a lot ... (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: And that was Bernie Sanders at Tuesday night`s Democratic debate. Making this point that he didn`t say, you know, the government would do better, right, at owning the means of production. That rather, instead, we just ought to tax the rich. WRIGHT: Well, and there`s also a conversation behind that, is how is government -- how is public investing in individual`s ability to be in the marketplace and in the way that throughout the 20th century we invested in individuals? We sort of reframed a lot of public programs as entitlements and as supports, but they`re actually public investments in people`s ability to be part of a capitalist system. And the erosion in that - of that is what the challenge is in that. I think that`s what particularly a lot of young folks are feeling, is the erosion of that investment now coming off of the recession. Where there`s just a lot less opportunity. And we`re not investing in folks. HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels to me like there`s also like the erosion of the notion of meritocracy. The thing is always - the idea that, you know, the one story the U.S. had was that we could move up, but also you could move down. You could be born rich and not necessarily be successful, but that`s gone now. WONG: Oh, it`s, you know, upward mobility is so bad. We are the ... HARRIS-PERRY: As a downward ... (CROSSTALK) WONG: Right. But you`re looking at taxes and tax rates. You know, our taxes was built at a time when income for most people was how, you know, money was made. If you look at actually how the one percent get taxed, their actual tax rates are closer to be 26 percent, because it`s capital gains. It`s not income. They`re not making money as we go and get paychecks. It`s a very different tax system. So, we have to look at how can things shift a bit. I think that`s what he`s referring to. How can we get more from there? And you saw this story today in "The Times" about, you know, if you tax the .1 percent and you raise their rates even just five percent, in actual rates, you could pay for every single undergraduate education in this country. HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah, let`s look at that. It`s apparently, if we took that top .1 percent with an average income of $9.4 million, 40 percent tax rate on that would produce $55 billion in extra revenue. Which would be enough to cover tuition of all. WELCH: But there`s an assumption behind that, which is - that needs to be challenged. Which is that the books are balanced right now. If we just did this thing, we could pay for this thing. But we`re not paying for a thing right now. HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I see. WELCH: We have doubled the size of the national debt over the past eight years after doubling the size of the national debt previously here ... HARRIS-PERRY: But isn`t that because we stopped taking in enough revenue in the context of taxes? WELCH: If we would have kept tax revenue, the growth of government at the same rate of population and inflation at the end of Bill Clinton`s term and just kept government growth at that same level, we would be having surpluses right now. We wouldn`t have ... WONG: It`s been in years -- HARRIS-PERRY: But that`s the war. WELCH: That`s the deficit is the lowest. Not the debt. No, the debt is the highest that`s ever been in history. WONG: But is it necessarily a bad thing if we need it to prop up -- the middle class is gone. WELCH: The next president will oversee the moments where we`re paying more every year in debt service than we are for the military. And we don`t pay a small amount for that military. HARRIS-PERRY: And so, what difference does that make? So - I understand what that does in my household. Help me understand why that should matter as a national ... MIRON: What matters is that under current projections from the Congressional Budget Office, not from some right wing conspiracy nut case, show that if we keep spending current rates on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, even with a healthy amount of tax revenue, consistent with historical average, we are Greece. We are bankrupt. We can`t even remotely pay for what we`re planning to spend. HARRIS-PERRY: But it`s such an easy - so, let me just - like we are turning to Greece. But it feels - let`s just take the, you know, the big entitlement program of Social Security. The idea always is kind of bankrupt language. But then it`s just the reality that for wealthy people by about the half - you know, not even wealthy people. For high-wage earners, by halfway through the year, they`re done paying in. All you have to do is just raise that cap. People pay in all year. And we`d be solvent. Like and they wouldn`t even particularly feel it in their households. That doesn`t feel like a hard fix to me. MIRON: You could raise the amount of taxes that we`re levying. However it`s distributed. A huge amount. And it still won`t address the problem very much because Medicare and Medicaid are growing much faster than GDP will ever grow. They are becoming bigger and bigger shares of the economy. HARRIS-PERRY: So we just cut ... (CROSSTALK) MIRON: We have to introduce more better incentives in those programs. They have to be moderated. Not destroyed, not gutted. But moderated so that they`re affordable and sustainable. (CROSSTALK) WELCH: You have to choose between entitlements or a safety net. It`s got to be one. It`s - are you going to pay for Donald Trump in his retirement, are you going to pay for his kids, or are you going to say I want the less well off -- HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. WELCH: to make sure that they don`t have that terrible nasty ... HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, but the answer is, of course, I`m willing to pay for the wealthy in their retirement. Because they`re the ones that are going to go and vote. And so what we know is that when we cut loose the poor from this - from the other category, when it is defined, the social safety net, than it is so politically vulnerable that within - within one election cycle that it, too, is gone. I mean check out (INAUDIBLE), I promise, more on this, more capitalism. But when we come back, I`m going to ask the question I`m asking all of my graduate students. Why is there no socialism in the U.S.? It`s a one-word answer. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: At Tuesday`s debate, Senator Bernie Sanders said the United States should have a new role model. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: And I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: So we see this comparison a lot that the U.S. is alone, and nearly alone, among Western democracies in not having universal health care or guaranteed paid parental leave or many other perks of a socialist government. But the question is why. What makes the U.S. different? And the way I tend to frame this to my students is why is there no socialism in the U.S.? The great Eric Foner question. And there`s a one-word answer, guy. I`m looking at you ... WRIGHT: Let me see. Could it be race? HARRIS-PERRY: Could it be? I mean that becomes the kind of standard story, right, is that in this country, race and racial privilege has trumped class identity as a way of organizing our politics. WRIGHT: Well, I mean so we could go way back, right, I mean the whole - if we`re talking about capitalism in the first instance. The whole system globally was built on slavery. The modern economy was built - the cotton was built on cotton which was built on financing, financing slaves. And so from that moment forward, we`ve been in a discussion about capitalism in the United States that has, in fact, sorted people by race. And you can`t -- and so when we get back to sort of the public investments that we make in people and that part of democratic socialism that has been challenged and difficult particularly in modern times because, coming out of the great society, coming out of the mid-20th century, we have had a politics that makes those public investments giveaways to black people. WONG: Exactly. My answer to you would have been also history. Because the colonization, right. We are talking about the people that were here first. Even if you go back to that kind of scrappy, hard scrabble, we`re going to come here and we are going to build something and then we`re going to bring people and treat them as non-people, just piling on to that history. We have such a history of -- we can`t all be equals because we`re not. If you look at Denmark, everyone`s the same. It`s a homogenous society. You look at us, it`s just not. We have that history and it really weighs in on us so much. It costs us an incredible amount. And it`s not tied to capitalism as much as people-think. This is true human bias at this point. WELCH: Also, if you look at Denmark, if you look at the number two party there, the Danish People`s Party is basically a post-Nazi party. They`re not accepting Syrian refugees. It is not a beautiful story about race and then, you know, between peoples. And also it`s a place that`s one of the top 10 or 15 free economies as measured by Heritage Foundation, right-wing organizations like that. So, it`s not as simple - it`s not Bernie Sanders land as much as Bernie Sanders might think that it is. HARRIS-PERRY: Right. WELCH: And Western Europe for the most part is not necessarily Bernie Sanders`. The places that are or that tried it, France, three years ago, elected Bernie Sanders for president, let`s just call Francois Hollande. Let`s do a millionaires tax. 75 percent. Let`s do all this kind of stuff. HARRIS-PERRY: He was serious. You want to meet a socialist, here you go, my friend. WELCH: And what happened? They`ve had to run from those policies screaming because people leave, people left. They did. It just backfired. It didn`t deliver on all those promises. But I want to say something the history, and race is a huge part of the history of this country and sustained on everything. But capitalism didn`t just proceed from a bunch of people sitting around and saying how can I be the most racist? HARRIS-PERRY: No! WONG: No! (CROSSTALK) WELCH: I know I`m being funny. HARRIS-PERRY: That`s not me, brother. I will hit back. (LAUGHTER) WELCH: Just don`t get in my shot again. WONG: We`re on either side of you. WELCH: But it also proceeded from a notion of individual rights and individual liberty. And some of the people who helped topple those racist structures that came or were put upon it were animated just as much by that notion of individual ... (CROSSTALK) HARRIS-PERRY: But isn`t this ... WONG: They weren`t individuals. There weren`t individuals, right, so we`re not saying that it`s just about race, we`re saying is that those rules, those feelings, didn`t apply to everybody. And adding there also the idea of immigrants. So you mentioned not accepting Syrians. We are a nation of immigrants, right? So that is actually a lifeblood of this country. That is actually a huge part of how capitalism can work for people and can work for this country, if you`re allowed. But the bottom line is we`re human beings. This is not an economics issue so much as that is bias and fear of resources. HARRIS-PERRY: But bias - but we are saying, but to me the issue is the way that the bias gets baked into the economic ... WONG: Yes, exactly. HARRIS-PERRY: So, the capitalism operates on our preferences, which are exogynist, which are fixed outside the system, and if racial bias is part of those preferences because of history, right, because we have this long history, then doesn`t it mean that the system must consistently have a corrective, right? So if, in fact, we just have a bias against certain kinds of bodies, don`t we then have to come in and correct that bias, even in order to make a free market system operate? MIRON: Well, we might, but we have to think about how attempts to correct the bias will operate and whether they will be more productive or - to be productive or counterproductive? So, there are people who are certainly concerned that measures that try to address bias like affirmative action lead to polarization, lead to people feeling angry and upset that they think that something that they deserve is being taken away. And lead to devaluing accomplishments of people who are minorities or women that would have had those accomplishments anyway, and yet then people look at them and say, oh, they just got that because of affirmative ... HARRIS-PERRY: I know. But professor, you have to let me weigh in, that nobody needed affirmative action to teach bias against black and brown people. Like, that bias is pre-existing and then affirmative action comes and then affirmative action gets used as discourse. But it`s not as though - it`s kind of like saying that, you know, like all of a sudden white folks decide to use the "n" word because of hip-hop. No, no, no, it was - they had already known how to use that word before ... WONG: They just put an "a" at the end. (LAUGHTER) HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Before we go to break, I do want to give you some good news about these preferences within our capitalist system. When we have some preferences against women in this particular capitalism. But check this out. The organization, Girls Who Code, is making sure that once the girls get the technical skills, they can get the job. The founder of the program Reshma Saujani says that 26 companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft, have pledged to hire alum from Girls Who Code. Under the partnership, students in their freshman or sophomore year of college may be offered paid internships that could lead to jobs in the tech industry. It`s one of the lowest participation rates when it comes to women, but that could all change with help of efforts like this. After the break, Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna are going to way in on gender, race, and our capitalists society. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: This week, Academy Award winning actor Jennifer Lawrence made a big impact in the social media, or at least the feminist corner of it, when she wrote in an essay about learning that she was paid less than her male co-stars in the film "American Hustle." She attributed the discrepancy to her failure to advocate fully for herself in contract negotiations. Writing, quote, "I didn`t want to seem difficult or spoiled. At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn`t worry about being difficult or spoiled." Also this week, pop star Rihanna was asked in an interview if her move from Barbados to New York has changed her awareness of race. She responded, quote, "you know, when I started to experience the difference or even have my race be highlighted, it was mostly when I would do business deals. And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It`s still a thing. And it`s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me. I know what they`re expecting, and I can`t wait to show them that I`m here to exceed those expectations." So I`m wondering what does capitalism do to our biases? Does it magnify them or does it make them as you might imagine, kind of make them irrelevant, what do you think? WONG: It doesn`t make them irrelevant. We`ve seen it in play in just them in the sense of scale. Cut off a couple of zeros, it`s the rest of us. I`m aggressive because I want to negotiate my salary or my pay. And it`s crazy and it`s ridiculous, and it`s actually not market friendly. If you look at it, now people are starting to finally realize that women buy stuff, people of color buy stuff, they participate in the economy a lot. So now we`re getting more of that. But if you think about who makes the decisions, it doesn`t necessarily reflect who`s buying, right? It`s real capitalism to make sure that what your produce, you get paid for, no matter what color or what gender you are. That`s the essence -- (CROSSTALK) HARRIS-PERRY: So on the one hand, we have this sort of notion of women as workers being paid a wage. We want to make sure - the cover of "New York Times," this morning, egg donors what room to name their price, right. So it is in part about the market in third party reproductive technologies. So they`re kind of a pure market argument might be, hey, if that`s the thing you produce instead of movies, you ought to be able to sell that on whatever marketplace is available. That won`t change racial bias. In fact, we know it will increase it, right. Because we know blonde blue eyed Princeton eggs are going to go for a higher price than other ones. Isn`t that what it -- isn`t this the marketplace, as we expect it to work? WELCH: First of all, the egg donors should be able to sell their damn eggs and they should be able to dictate prices. Wherever we feel icky about stuff, like organ donations is a classic example, like kidney donations. We allow people to sell their own organs - oh, that`s gross, that`s going to be exploitation. Well, people wouldn`t die in the same numbers that we do now. Whenever we start to feel icky about stuff, that`s when we restrict freedom in a way that`s unhelpful. I mean, I think you`re absolutely right. In terms of, you know, when discrimination happens in a marketplace, that is a wonderful opportunity for someone else to eat someone else`s lunch. There`s all this untapped talent you can get. As someone who manages talent, if there are people widespread in the journalism industry who are being bad to women who are of child-rearing age, okay, I`ll be good. You get to have -- (CROSSTALK) HARRIS-PERRY: Go ahead. WRIGHT: There`s separate conversations here. There`s the question about individuals in the marketplace and how they behave and what they do to get theirs, right. And then there`s the question about the ways in which a great deal of out capitalist activity is about profiting from inequity. And that`s a separate conversation and one we have to police publicly. And so this is why we started -- why I started with slavery earlier. We have been profiting off of an equity for a very long time. Whether it`s in the housing market, whether it`s in Hollywood, whether it`s in egg donors. It`s the profiting off of racial and gender inequity that`s a problem, and that requires a public solution that is policing that profit. HARRIS-PERRY: It does feel like it requires a greater push on the fulcrum back the other way when it is against the sort of profit motivation. The Walmart example this week is important, because you say, okay, if you have a marketplace where you need good workers and now you can -- if I step in and pay my workers more, this ought to provide me the space as an employer to do better, but that`s actually not what happened. Walmart basically got punished on the, you know, in the markets as a result of its decisions this week. MIRON: I want to push the point that capitalism overall is helping to reduce these inequities. It`s pushing back against discrimination. It`s helping exactly the groups we`re concerned about. One example is unions. Government protected unions were a huge force of discrimination. They wanted a higher wage. They wanted to keep some people out of the union so that they were fewer people and therefore higher wage. Who do they keep out? They kept out African-Americans. Aided and abetted by the federal government rules that allowed them to do that. (CROSSTALK) HARRIS-PERRY: But the union story, that`s fascinating. If you look at the map about where we`re unionized, and where we`re not, it actually is in the former confederacy where we have the lowest rate of unions. Most folks have read that as a kind of story that race trumped class as an identity for political organizing. But you`re also not wrong that in the context of unions themselves, there`s been a ton of -- both of those things are true at the same time. In part because it feels like, like Kai was just saying, that`s like, that`s the story. WRIGHT: That`s the United States. HARRIS-PERRY: That`s the big story. WRIGHT: That`s the context of the 20th century. All of our versions of investment in the 20th century, whether it was in the labor movement, whether it was in public, wherever it was at, it was discriminatory. It actively left out black people and actively left out women. So we have worked on that over the years. I don`t know we can ascribe that to capitalism as much as we can to politics and political movements that have insisted upon changing the rules of the game, whether it be in government or the marketplace. And so we must -- so that is the answer. The answer is not this -- not some magical outside thing. It`s our politics that say these are the rules of all of these things. And we must ensure there`s not profiting off an inequity within these systems. MIRON: My response is yes, these biases exist. These prejudices exist. They`ve come from many sources for a long time. But there are forces which push back. Profit maximizing businessmen want to hire the cheapest labor. If they restrict themselves to only hiring whites, only hiring men, they`re restricting the supply of labor and costing themselves more. Government policies that interfered with that just basic capitalist tendency are going to make things worse, not better. Different example. Drug testing. People thought if we allow employers to drug test widely, they would discriminate, it would be bad for African- Americans because African-Americans use drugs at much higher rates. Turns out not to be true. And when they were allowed in the states that did it, they found that employment of African-Americans and their wages went up, because the tests revealed that in fact African-Americans weren`t using at high rates. And so those who weren`t using were able to get jobs. WELCH: But also the drug testing sucks unless you`re a truck driver. HARRIS-PERRY: So this is our more libertarian - (CROSSTALK) HARRIS-PERRY: I just don`t want to miss this point. Just give me one second. My producers (inaudible) me about time, but this idea that, like, green will trump race. I think - you did not quite say it that way, but the marketplace can help to correct for this. I guess the problem is, that once there is a preference that is strongly against people of color, then actually choosing to have a market that`s open to them can actually reduce the number of white consumers who will come, and that was true of the whole context of desegregation of lunch counters. It`s even true in the vote, right? If you become the party that represents people of color, you`ll actually see an exodus of white voters. So I mean, I hear you, how it ought to just work if there`s no bias, but once there is bias, you have to correct it somehow. So much more to talk about on capitalism, but apparently what we`re actually going to talk about next is what Joe Biden is doing right now, the vice president and his travails after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: There is one thing we know for sure about Vice President Joe Biden. Tonight he`s scheduled to be in New York City to receive a human rights award. It will be right around here in fact, in midtown Manhattan. But come on, that`s not what everyone wants to know about the VP. They want to know if he`ll make his move to ditch that V in his (inaudible). NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker, what do you know now? KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: Not a whole lot, Melissa, but look, the vice president isn`t giving us any concrete signs today. He left his home this morning. He`s attending his granddaughter`s cross-country meet. Sources close to the vice president, though, tell me we could get an answer within the next 48 hours. He`s under intense scrutiny as you know and pressure, to say whether he`s in or out. And those sources also tell me that Biden`s family is on board with a run. He`s now calling supporters in early voting states to gauge whether he actually has a path to winning. What was interesting was that on Friday, Biden`s close ally, former Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman sent a letter to former Biden staffers, which reads in part, quote, "if he decides to run, we`ll need each and everyone of you yesterday." That got a lot of people talking, but what we think is the letter was actually designed to send a signal. Biden wants a little bit more space to decide, and also he wants to tell his supporters, look, the door hasn`t closed yet. But as we`ve been talking about all week long, Hillary Clinton`s top supporters are trying to apply pressure. A lot of them say this is just too late, and Clinton is showing new signs of strength this week after that dominant debate performance. One poll even shows her inching up in New Hampshire. Of course, Bernie Sanders has been topping here in New Hampshire. And our latest NBC News survey Monkey Online poll shows that Clinton has a commanding lead nationally, double digits. President Obama weighed in on Friday. Take a listen to what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I`m not going to comment on what Joe`s doing or not doing. I think you can direct those questions to my very able vice president. I think that the vice president, like every other candidate, makes their own decisions about these issues, and they`ll have to figure out whether it makes sense for them. (END VIDEO CLIP) WELKER: Secretary Clinton was also asked about this Friday. She said Biden should have the space to decide, but I can tell you that privately, based on my conversations here at the White House, officials believe it is time for the vice president to make a final decision. Now, some of the reasons that Biden is struggling, he`s always wanted to run for president. He knows this would be his last shot, and of course his late son Beau urged him to run before he passed away. But those who know him, who have been talking to him, say the biggest determining factor is whether he thinks he can actually win. Melissa. HARRIS-PERRY: Let me say thank you to NBC`s Kristen Welker. I sure hope you get the answer first, because I`ve seen you out there, you`ve been screaming and hollering, asking over and over. WELKER: I`ve been trying, Melissa. Thank you. HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. Up next, how the Supreme Court could change everything for minors sent to prison for life. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: The chances for comprehensive criminal justice reform may never be better than right now. It`s been championed by leaders in both political parties, and it was a key issue at this week`s Democratic presidential debate. This morning, in his weekly address, President Obama announced that in the coming weeks, he will travel the country to meet with those working to reform the criminal justice system. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Justice means that the punishment should fit the crime. And justice means allowing our fellow Americans who have made mistakes to pay their debt to society and rejoin their community as active rehabilitated citizens. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: While all this bodes well for the future of sentencing reform, but what about those who need real changes right now? That was the question before the Supreme Court this week. In 2012, the court banned mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of homicide. On Tuesday, justices heard arguments on whether that ruling should be applied retroactively. At the center of the latest case, a man named Henry Montgomery, who was 17 years old when he shot and killed a Louisiana sheriff`s deputy in 1963. Montgomery was playing hooky from school, and the officer was assigned to round up the truants. Montgomery told authorities he did not mean to kill the officer but panicked while being frisked. The attorneys argued Montgomery had developmental disabilities and did not fully understand what he was doing. But he still received the mandatory minimum of life without parole. And today, Montgomery is 69 years old and has spent the last 52 years at the Louisiana state penitentiary. The outcome of his case could have huge implications for many other prisoners serving life sentences. Like Trina Garnet, who was 14 years old and developmentally disabled when she set a fire that killed two people in Pennsylvania nearly 40 years ago. And Quantell Lotts, who was also 14 when he got into a scuffle with his stepbrother and stabbed him to death 12 years ago. And nearly 2,000 other prisoners serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed when they were still children. Joining me now from New Orleans is Joshua Perry, executive director of the Louisiana Center for Children`s Rights. Nice to have you, Mr. Perry. JOSHUA PERRY, EXEC. DIRECTOR, LOUISIANA CENTER FOR CHILDREN`S RIGHTS: Thanks so much for having me. HARRIS-PERRY: So what has been the effect of the court`s 2012 decision? I know it doesn`t impact these folks who are currently in prison, but what has been its impact over the last few years? PERRY: Well, what it means for young people who are facing the most serious penalty that the law has to offer them, short of the death penalty, is that they have a chance to prove that they are amenable to rehabilitation and change, and that`s true when we think of the brain science, and it`s true when we think of what we know about who we were when we were kids and the kids who we know. 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, 16- year-olds, they`re uniquely amenable and susceptible to change. And they lack culpability. It`s harder for them to make decisions. So this is a critically important decision that recognizes that kids are different, and we have to treat them differently in the justice system. HARRIS-PERRY: On this question of kind of the retrospective aspect which is currently being decided. Obviously the case I just told about, Montgomery, this is something that happened in Louisiana in 1963. Obviously he`s an African American, he`s now spent 52 years in jail. It does sort of also call into question, like, how just our justice system was. Particularly when we push back 40 and 50 years. PERRY: That`s right. Montgomery is about whether we should have a level playing field across the country for everybody. Because right now, there are states where Miller (ph) is being treated retroactively. And unfortunately, there`s a minority of states like Louisiana, where 300 men and women who are similarly situated to Henry Montgomery are trapped in prison without even the possibility of demonstrating that they have changed, that they`re different people, that they`ve developed in positive ways. So what we were arguing with Montgomery was that there should be a level playing field across the country for every person who is situated like Henry Montgomery. HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things the president highlighted in his recent speech at the Congressional Black Caucus is these new data showing that girls who end up in the criminal justice system often are themselves survivors of sexual assault. We also know that boys who are in the system have often themselves also been victimized. I guess I wonder sort of how do we deal with that? On the one hand, saying, once you`ve committed the crime of murder, we need to be able to hold you accountable for that, but also recognizing that young people who are survivors of various kinds of violence and assault, you know, there may be culpability that goes beyond them. PERRY: That`s right. We need to hold people accountable when they commit serious offenses. But children need to be held accountable in age- appropriate ways, in ways that will actually keep us safer as a community, and that acknowledges that young people are uniquely able to change and develop in positive ways. Yes, it`s true. Girls who fall into the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system are highly likely to have been victimized. Boys are highly likely to have been subjected to trauma. They`re disproportionately likely to suffer from mental illness. I`ve represented children being prosecuted as adults facing life in prison without the possibility of parole who have IQs as low as 42. So we have children who are brought to where they are through circumstances over which they have no control. And that`s another critical way in which kids are different than adults. So frequently, they can`t separate themselves from the social context they come up in. In New Orleans, one out of five boys and girls in middle school have personally witnessed a murder. So they`re subjected to trauma and violence on a level that I think is hard for a lot of people to understand. But justice -- and I listened to the president`s clip. I think he`s right. Justice also means responding to people in ways that are age-appropriate and that take their context into account. HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Joshua Perry in New Orleans. I know it`s tough work. But this is maybe a moment of opening where there`s a lot happening within the context of criminal justice reform. And here in New York, I want to say thank you to Carmen Rita Wong and Jeffrey Miron. I hope you two will come back soon. Matt Welch and Kai Wright are going to stick around in our next hour, because still to come this morning, schools across an entire state are at risk of closing. But up next, the president`s decision on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and what it means for his foreign policy legacy. There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. In 2012, as President Obama was running for re-election, he made the case to American voters, pointing out not only the achievements during his first four years in office, but also the legacy he hoped to cement if he was given another four years on the job. As he envisioned it, that legacy on foreign policy included the fulfillment of the plan that he laid out during a televised address from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in May of 2012. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I`d like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan. Our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014, the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Two years into his second term, new developments in the official U.S. policy in Afghanistan suggested that President Obama was delivering on that pledge. In June of 2013, Afghan forces assumed control of their country from the NATO coalition. And a year later, the president gave this update on his plan to withdraw American troops. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: At the beginning of 2015, we will have approximately 9,800, 9,800, U.S. service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners. By the end of 2015, we will have reduced that presence by roughly half. One year later, by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: According to the president`s plan, by the start of 2017, the small force of about 1,000 troops at the American embassy in Kabul would be all that remained of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Down from more than 100,000 at the peak of U.S. war time involvement back in 2011. Then, just a few months later, in December of 2014, the president announced the official end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. The phased drawdown of U.S. troops would continue as planned. And the new mission, the 10,000 American soldiers who were still in the country would shift from active combat to a supporting role, providing training and advice to Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban. Even as the official U.S. policy in Afghanistan signaled the beginning of the end of the war that had dragged on for more than a decade and through two presidential administrations, the reality of what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan told a very different story. Just a month before the president announced the end of U.S. combat in Afghanistan, "The New York Times" reported that he authorized American forces to carry out missions that could, in fact, put them in direct combat against the Taliban and it was clear that Afghan forces would bear limited resources and intelligence gathering capabilities were still far from ready to stop relying on that U.S. support. The Afghan people, 2014, had been the bloodiest year since the war began. More than 5,000 members of the Afghan security forces were killed. And the United Nations recorded more than 10,000 civilian casualties in 2014 alone. Most of those deaths were caused by the Taliban, which continued pressing its insurgency with an increasing number of attacks. And by March of this year, the Obama administration, recognizing both the intensifying challenges on the ground in Afghanistan and the potential for ISIS to gain a foothold in the conflict, had made its first major shift in the president`s time line for withdrawal. At the request of Afghanistan`s newly elected leadership, the 10,000 American troops still in the country would remain through the end of 2015, instead of the reduction by half, as the president initially announced. And yet, while the new policy signaled a slowdown of President Obama`s schedule for troops to leave Afghanistan, as of March, the 2016 deadline for the complete withdrawal was still on track. That all changed this week when the president made news that this update about the future of U.S. military involvement in the country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I`ve decided to maintain our current posture of troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, 2016. Second, I`ve decided instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: President said his decision was based on ongoing assessments on the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, including Afghan forces who still are not as strong as they needed to be, the Taliban, which has continued to make gains in its deadly insurgency. And according to the United Nations, has now extended its reach throughout Afghanistan. So much so that at any point since the war began in 2001. This week`s announcement represents not only a major shift in U.S. policy in Afghanistan, but an even more significant rewriting of President Obama`s legacy -- the president who aspired to be a peacemaker in an age of endless war, is now a president who will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, in the extent that he is leaving the inheritance of America`s longest war in the hands of America`s next president. Joining me now is Matt Welch, editor and chief of "Reason Magazine", Nina Khrushcheva, who is professor of international affairs at the New School, Kai Wright, features editor at "The Nation", and Noah Shachtman, who is executive editor at "The Daily Beast". OK, should I be praising this president, who looks at a changing world, makes a new assessment, and therefore makes new decisions? Or is this a failure of the president`s sort of promise to get us out? NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, PROF. OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, THE NEW SCHOOL: I think it`s neither praising the president, neither it`s a failure. I think it was -- it`s a foreign policy decision that is probably very, very necessary. And in some ways, was almost prepared, because we`ve heard already that things like that might happen. There`s a question of Iraq, whether the troops should have been withdrawn when they were withdrawn. So, in some ways, it doesn`t come as a great surprise. It just comes as a little shift or big shift in foreign policy. The question is, what is the executive exit strategy if it`s a strategy indeed? Do they have one? And whether these almost 10,000 troops would be enough to maintain the current status, which is already very, very problematic? So it`s either going to prolong the war or at point it`s going to save the war? HARRIS-PERRY: When you bring up the context, the really important way of thinking about it. But at the front of that is in part this conversation about Iraq, and I guess part of what I keep wondering is how powerfully the recent developments in Iraq are weighing on the way the president`s making this decision in the context of Afghanistan. NOAH SHACHTMAN, EXEC. EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: I think it sort of reinforced a narrative already. Look, just to take a step back. When Obama announced we were going to pull out forces from Afghanistan, basically nobody in the Pentagon believed it, OK? Like, it seemed like a political decision. It doesn`t seem like a military driven decision. The president always gave himself outs as he was making those announcements. Even this announcement, to bring down from 9,800 troops to 5,500 troops, I bet it doesn`t happen. You`ll see 10,000 troops more or less in a Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio administration. HARRIS-PERRY: Whoa, sir, just pause. We`re not -- saying all of it except the little end part for a second. Now, your point here about sort of that folks didn`t even particularly see it that way. I want to listen. The president was asked in part did he see this as disappointing. I`d like to play the president`s response and have you respond to it, Kai. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: This decision`s not disappointing. Continually, my goal has been to make sure that we give every opportunity for Afghanistan to succeed, while we`re still making sure we`re meeting our core missions. And as I`ve continually said, my approach is to assess the situation on the ground, figure out what`s working, figure out what`s not working, make adjustments where necessary. This isn`t the first time those adjustments have been made. This probably won`t be the last. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: It was a very realist answer. But he was aspirational in his peacemaking. And so, it`s got to be disappointing relative to those aspirations, right? WRIGHT: Well, you can`t see it as anything other than disappointing that a third president is going to be leading this war. For whatever else is true, that`s a disappointing fact about America. HARRIS-PERRY: Disappointing fact about America or disappointing fact about the realities of Afghanistan? WRIGHT: Well, both. I think -- so, yes, we have the disappointing realities of our war making and how we got here in the first place. And, you know, the fact that there is a blank check for the president to continue these wars is part of the problem. Also, I think on the question of the president`s peacemaking legacy, we do also have to remember the Iran deal, we have to remember Cuba. These are important things that have happened in terms of making -- in terms of coming to peaceful solutions to conflict that involve the United States. I think we need to remember those things. HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels to me like, look, when you see the president engaging in that way, when you see him talking about the Iranian deal, when you see him talking about opening up Cuba, you get a sense of this is how the president would like to be engaging the world. And it feels very different. Again, he`s saying I`m not disappointed. But there is a kind of difference in the President Obama who has to continue the war. WELCH: I think there`s a reason why so many people feel just sort of unsatisfied, whether they`re hostile or not hostile to the president about foreign policy. He gave a speech the other week. It was actually a very interesting foreign policy speech in which he basically said America is not omnipotent. We can`t put our thumb everywhere on the global scales and dictate outcomes. It`s a thing Republicans, of course, when they`re in opposition can`t stand to hear. They puff out their chests and make no proposals about what they do differently except be tougher. But he`s unwilling to follow that logic all the way through. The fact is, I mean, the facts on the ground in Afghanistan are intolerable in that we are seeing hills, towns, that Americans died for, going back to the Taliban right now. And the logic of it is, are we going to stay there forever. He says we`re going to meet our core missions and objectives. That`s just kind of mushy talk for I`m afraid to follow through on the logic, which is this country is screwed, us occupying it is not going to solve their long-term problems. And ultimately, we`re going to make that decision, who`s going to be the last person to die for a mistake, the John Kerry formula. HARRIS-PERRY: OK, maybe. I know correlation and causation is not the same thing but when you look at the U.S. military presence, right, it really does tick down during the Obama years in Afghanistan, right? So it`s coming down, coming down. WELCH: If you have the surge. HARRIS-PERRY: Because he`s like, this is the right war, Iraq is the dumb war. So it surges, then ticks down. If you look at civilian casualties, they go the exact opposite direction. On top of that, then the curve goes up this way. Again, not that one causes the other, but it`s got to be if you`re living on the ground in Afghanistan, that reduction of troops is correlated with this increase. WELCH: Southeast Asia was not a pleasant place to be after America left Vietnam. KHRUSHCHEVA: Right, it`s an exit strategy question. I mean, what are they doing with Pakistan? What are they are doing in Pakistan in fact where a lot of these people coming to Afghanistan to create havoc are hiding? I mean, that`s -- HARRIS-PERRY: The foreign minister of Pakistan is coming to the White House this week -- KHRUSHCHEVA: They will be finally conversation. Saying why all these people like Osama bin Laden are hiding in your place, I mean, what`s the deal there? That`s foreign policy. Whether you get out of the war or come into the war, that`s a separate question, the second question. The question is, what is the foreign policy? HARRIS-PERRY: If there`s a -- I hear you, who`s the last person to die. I understand that. Especially sort of informed by our experience in Vietnam. On the other hand, I wonder about the sense of responsibility that a nation takes when you break something, right? SHACHTMAN: Right, absolutely. There`s that famous Colin Powell pottery barn analogy about if you break it, you buy it. I think the tough part in that is -- yes, it`s true, nobody wants to have the last American to die for this place that seems not to be in our strategic interest. The problem is we`ve seen this before. We know what happens when we pull out of Afghanistan, right? We know we`re going to see a takeover of some people we don`t really like and it can be a breeding ground for terrorism here. Similarly in Iraq, we pulled out of there and honestly, I mean, most military assessments are, if we had left those 10,000 troops there, the chances that ISIS would be running wild in Iraq would be much, much, much lower. HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, want to talk a little bit about the politics of it. So, I`m going to talk a little bit, if you`re running for the nomination of the Democratic or Republican Party. What do you do with this data for the rest of the campaign? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don`t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only or even primary component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama last may at West Point laying out his foreign policy doctrine. You get a since that`s what he wants. He wants to be able to wrap it up at the end of the term and say, yes, see, not everything is a nail. But here he is having to swing the hammer again. SHACHTMAN: Yes, absolutely. Just to carry the analogy a little further, if you don`t nail down every part of the house, right it can fall over. I think that`s kind of what happened here. Look, the Obama administration really wanted this war on terror over for perfectly understandable reasons. You know, it had gone on for years and years and years. And they`re like, OK, Iraq, done. Afghanistan, done. Pull it back. And then we`ve sort of seen what happened in the interim, unfortunately. HARRIS-PERRY: If you are Hillary Clinton in this moment and you`re running, you`ve been secretary of state in this administration, is this news about Afghanistan this week generally welcome news? Are you like, OK, now I get to show my toughness? Is it news you figure actually won`t impact the election because 10,000 troops really probably throughout four southern states aren`t actually going to swing the presidential election? I just sort of wonder what this looks like. WRIGHT: The future of -- SHACHTMAN: Sorry. WRIGHT: If you`re Joe Biden, it might be an interesting conversation for you. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. WRIGHT: The place where he can distinguish himself from Clinton is on foreign policy, in particular, on Afghanistan. And so, I think if you`re him, you`re thinking, OK, maybe I have a race after all. HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, he`s certainly standing there right behind the president during the moment the president`s announcing this. You get a sense of both his seriousness. But that the whole administration is not happy with this having to happen. KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, they can`t be, because they have to -- they do look flip-floppy a little bit. Everybody in American politics is always afraid to be a flip-flopper. But I think Hillary Clinton already went out and said, well, there was an expectable decision. She spoke at the New School this summer where she slightly mentioned she spoke to the council of foreign relations. I think she`s already preparing herself for that long war. But also distinguishing herself, saying, I will have an exit strategy. If we have to stay there longer, we will, but for a good cause. HARRIS-PERRY: See, I want -- go ahead. WELCH: She`s super comfortable with being a Democratic hawk. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. WELCH: Look at the debate, she actually spends one minute defending Libya as a great policy success. I don`t know how you wrap your mind around that at all. She spent time talking about how Edward Snowden, that he could have been a whistleblower but he wasn`t -- HARRIS-PERRY: She`s serious about that. WELCH: She`s going to stand up to Putin. Everyone who`s out of power has a lot of unrealistic ideas about what they might do and that are also vague. But she`s comfortable with it. Democrats are not punishing her in any way to the extent they disagree with that hawkishness. HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I wonder as well for all of the impulse clearly on the Republican side to put in a novice, right, everybody who`s currently leading is somebody who`s not part of the political system right now, if that goes away, if we have a sense of that existential threat of war, right? If we`re not in war times, do you -- I mean, if we are war times, do you want Donald Trump or Ben Carson as commander and chief? (CROSSTALK) SHACHTMAN: Right, that`s number one. And then number two, I don`t think any of the Republican field, I don`t think any of the Democratic fields, and frankly, I don`t think anybody in the Pentagon, sees Afghanistan as the central issue. Look, let me tell you something, talking to folks at the Pentagon, here`s the order of things they care about. Russia, ISIS, sort of co-number one. Maybe al Qaeda, 17 other things. China and then Afghanistan`s somewhere down here. And so -- HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s more symbolic, this Afghanistan move. SHACHTMAN: Exactly. HARRIS-PERRY: As a political matter. SHACHTMAN: Yes, that`s exactly right. That`s terrible. 10,000 American troops, 10,000 civilian casualties. We should be caring a lot more about. Unfortunately, that`s the reality both in the military and I think in the political -- HARRIS-PERRY: So if Russia is at the top, do you want Trump? If Putin is your biggest problem? KHRUSHSCHEVA: Which actually if Russia at the top, you do want Trump. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s what I`m saying. Because he`s sort of -- KHRUSHCHEVA: There, you do want Trump because Trump Tower in the Red Square has been Trump`s dream for 25 years. HARRIS-PERRY: And they`re both, like, ripping off their shirt. You can see the whole thing. KHRUSHCHEVA: Riding horses. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, riding horses. KHRUSHCHEVA: However, I think that is actually -- that says it all because if that`s the priority of the administration, Russia is on the top you want to make an enemy out of Putin when you can have numerously more dangerous enemies brooding and creating themselves, just out of nothing. Or a lot on war on terror? That`s the problem. The priorities then, the priorities are completely very wrong. HARRIS-PERRY: So, why is Putin on the top? SHACHTMAN: Why is Putin on the top? Well, there`s several thousand nuclear weapons. That would be a big reason. There`s been a change in Russian military doctrine that says that actually a first strike in the tactical situation might actually be the case. There`s the prowess they`ve shown in Ukraine. There`s the prowess they`ve shown in Syria. You know, there`s a real sense that unfortunately, you know, the Russians are kind of on the march to Cold War-ish. There`s a real sense that Russia is reemerging as a global competitor to the U.S. in a major way. KHRUSHCHEVA: That is kind a problem because, you know, if you treat Russia as a parallel country, that`s one thing. But if you actually want to fight with Russia because it suddenly is a global competitor, that`s a problem with your foreign policy, because I think then your priorities are wrong. WRIGHT: There`s a great many things in the world that we need Russia to resolve. We are going to have to -- we`re going to have to work with Russia to resolve a great many of these things in the end. So -- HARRIS-PERRY: Are you thinking Mr. Trump is the one to do that? WRIGHT: I think Mr. Trump with his shirt off in particular. KHRUSHCHEVA: In Red Square. SHACHTMAN: I just threw up in my mouth. KHRUSHCHEVA: In Red Square riding horses together. HARRIS-PERRY: I will say, it suddenly -- you put that thing on the table earlier I was trying to ignore. As a matter of politics, there is a way in which Marco Rubio, if that becomes the narrative of the campaign, if it is about who can manage Putin and who can address Syria and who can do something about these troops, then, in fact, if you are Marco Rubio, that makes that pathway a little harder. WELCH: Rubio is very, very fluent on these issues, whether you agree with him or not. He`s a hawk`s hawk. He`s very much a neo conservative. But he understands and talks a lot with fluency about the world there that`s more convincing than, say, Carly Fiorina memorizing the number of battleships that we`re supposed to have -- WRIGHT: It has been and is going to be about the economy. We`ve been in the state of permanent war. People are used to it. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s one thing before a blind audience to have all of this nuance on foreign policy. Thank you to Matt Welch and Nina Khrushcheva, Kai Wright and Noah Shachtman, although you can`t come back and say President Rubio at my table. Still to come this morning, why thousands of students in one state may be forced to stay home for weeks. But, up next, we`re going to live to Jerusalem as the latest round of violence in Israel continues this morning. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: Three new attempted stabbing attacks this morning in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. In each incident, a Palestinian was shot dead after trying to stab an Israeli. No Israelis were hurt. Joining me now from Jerusalem, NBC`s Bill Neely. Bill, what else can you tell us about these new reports of violence? BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Melissa. No letup in the violence here. Sadly, three attempted murders, stabbings. As they say, three dead Palestinians, all of them teenagers. In Jerusalem, a 16-year-old was stopped by a police patrol. They asked for his ID. He handed over his ID, pulled out a knife and tried to stab the soldier but was shot before he could actually make contact. Then in Hebron, two incidents. In one of them, an 18-year-old was shot dead after he pulled a knife on a civilian, on a street. It was actually the civilian who had a gun. He shot his attacker. And then a 16-year-old girl approached a policewoman and asked her directions, then pulled out a knife and tried to stab her in the neck according to the policewoman who had a gun and, again, shot her assailant. So, three more dead Palestinians. And some fairly shocking images have emerged of another attack and just a warning, you may find some of these photographs quite graphic. They show a Palestinian attacker chasing a soldier and then using his knife, which is clearly visible, to stab the soldier after he wrestled him to the ground. The other soldiers opened fire on the Palestinian. He was killed. The injured soldier is recovering in the hospital. So, no letup in these attacks. It`s really difficult for the police and, indeed, Israeli intelligence, to work out where they`re coming from next. Most of these attackers, as I say, are teenagers from east Jerusalem. They carry Israeli ID cards so they`re free to move around. They often speak pretty fluent Hebrew. They`ve got no criminal or terrorist record. And they strike at random. So, for police and everyone involved here, it really is difficult to work out where the next attack is coming from. But so far, since those attacks this morning, none this afternoon. But this daily cycle of violence just keeps spinning. No end in sight, Melissa. HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Bill Neely in Jerusalem. And up next, the Chicago kickback scandal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I apologize to them. They deserved much more, much more than I gave to them. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: For many Chicago children, getting to school is a dangerous task. Last month, the city suffered more than 60 homicides, the deadliest September in the city since 2002. And more than 2,400 people have been shot already this year in Chicago. Many of them school aged children. The situation is so extreme that the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights appealed to the United Nations to investigate the dangers faced by students as a potential human rights violation. President Obama made reference to the violence on the day his secretary of education, Arne Duncan who is from Chicago, stepped down. Duncan`s resignation happened to come on the heels of the mass shooting at Oregon`s Umpqua Community College. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I`m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday, but Arne`s going back to Chicago. Let`s not forget -- this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country. Every single day, kids are just running for their lives trying to get to school. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Running for their lives trying to get to school. It`s worth noting in Chicago getting to school for many young people recently has been made more difficult. In 2013, Chicago was home to the nation`s largest ever one-time school closure. The person in charge at the time was Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, who this week made clear what her priorities were while running the country`s third largest public school system. It`s fair to say it wasn`t her students. After being indicted open charges of corruption and fraud, Byrd-Bennett, who resigned earlier this year, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of wire fraud for agreeing to get the school system to award her former employer $23 million worth of no bid contracts. In exchange, SUPES Academy, the consulting firm Byrd-Bennett once worked for, would award her $2.3 million in kickbacks. After she left her post as CEO of the public school system. Byrd-Bennett who faces up to 7 1/2 years in prison, apologized to the students of Chicago`s public schools. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARBARA BYRD-BENNETT, FORMER CEO OF THE CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I am terribly sorry. And I apologize to them. They deserved much more, much more than I gave to them. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: She also released a statement Tuesday saying, "There is nobody to blame but me. And my failings could not have come at a time of greater challenges for CPS," Chicago public schools. The former educator did leave the Chicago school system at a time of turmoil. In her first year as CEO, the board of education shut down 49 elementary schools, sending thousands of students to unfamiliar classrooms. The Chicago Public School system is also in debt. It owes an astounding $6.2 billion and rating agency Moody`s Investor Service has called CPS`s financial status precarious. And in an effort to save up to $140 million per year, the district, which has seen its fair shake of teacher strikes, has been in a battle with teachers over pensions. But Byrd-Bennett is not the only one to blame for the challenges of Chicago public schools, or for the bribery scandal she`s involved in. Her recognition, her indictment, her guilty plea and her apology do not absolve the system that enabled this corruption. It was Mayor Rahm Emanuel who handpicked Byrd-Bennett to lead the public school system reportedly at the request of Gary Solomon, owner of SUPES Academy and a consultant with deep ties to the Emanuel administration. Solomon, his partner, Thomas Vranas, and the two companies they ran were also charged in the bribery scheme. And they both pleaded not guilty. But let`s be clear about one thing: the inquiry here cannot stop with the alleged kickback scheme. The inquiry has to be about the entire broken system. We must question everything that has happened with Chicago Public Schools these past few years, the shutdowns, the replacement of students, the pension battles. When the people responsible for the well being of 400,000 children, and in this case, predominantly black and Latino children, make clear their primary motivation is to line their own pockets, we have to question the entire system, especially when, as the president said, the children they are meant to serve are just running for their lives trying to get to school. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: The state of Pennsylvania is facing a crisis. A statewide budget holdup might keep thousands of kids home from school for up to two weeks. The Pennsylvania legislature has been at a standstill on its budget since the agreement was due on June 30th. If legislators cannot agree by the end of the month, school districts will have lost $3 billion in state aid. Now, the prolonged debate over the state budget has forced at least 17 Pennsylvania school districts, primarily in Philadelphia, to borrow money just to keep the lights on and the doors open. In total, the districts have borrowed more than $346 million and more than 2 dozen have been unable to pay tuition for charter schools. The Erie school district which already owed $9 million in late payments to vendors is hit particularly hard by the budget standstill. The district is preparing for the possibility of sending its 12,000 students home starting November 1st if the state budget is not settled. Joining me now from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is Dawayne Cleckly, who`s father of a student in Erie Public School and board member at the partnership for Erie Public Schools, an advisory board member at Central Tech High School. Nice to have you this morning, sir. DAWAYNE CLECKLY, FATHER OF STUDENT IN AN ERIE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Thank you very much, Melissa. Nice to see you this morning. HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me both about how you feel and how other parents in the school may feel about the possibility that your children may not be able to go to school in two weeks. CLECKLY: Well, I will tell you this is a serious problem within our community. So many of our parents in our community are worried about what happens when or if the school were to close and they would have to turn to finding child support for their kids, a place for their kids to go during the day while they worked. This is a very poor community, 80 percent of our kids live in poverty. The entire school district, the entire school district is on free lunch. So, this impacts our community in a terrible way when our legislators cannot agree on a budget. It`s been three months now. HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I`m wondering if you`re talking to your children about this and about this possibility. Because, you know, this point that this is a place where young people are actually getting their meals. If it`s a school system where everyone`s on free and reduced lunch, if the schools close, does that also mean these kids go hungry? CLECKLY: You know, it does. That`s something that`s missed in the conversation. The Erie -- Erie`s public schools fed children over 150,000 breakfast meals and over 250,000 lunch meals. We`ve only received $50,000 from the state. If the doors were to close, many of these students would go hungry because this essentially when they come to school, this may be their only meals. So, we are in a situation where the district has made a decision to attempt to borrow $30 million, which, by and large, which cost the district $144,000. That`s the salary of two teachers. So, this situation is really gone out of control. HARRIS-PERRY: And this is basically a political fight, right? I mean, I guess I just feel like you elect your legislatures, you elect your governor. One is from the Democratic side, one from the Republican side. But the idea that kids, you know, they don`t have a party, they don`t have a set of ideologies. Shouldn`t they be at the forefront of these decisions? CLECKLY: They should be at the forefront. I don`t see this as -- it is a power struggle in the state. I mean, you have a Democratic governor. You have a Republican-controlled legislative body. It`s the same thing we see at the federal level. I don`t, you know, I have no faith myself in the political system. There are some lawmakers that are trying to move the issue forward. But at the end of the day, really, the conversation has to be about the students. And the students are affected. I`d like to read something to you. HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. CLECKLY: One child sent this to her superintendant. She says, "Me and my friends are going to raise money for our school. So far we have raised $20, but we look to get more. I love Grover Cleveland," the school that she went to. That was a fifth grader. A sixth grader, she wrote, "I don`t want you to lose your job or any of the other teachers." Now, this doesn`t pull on the heartstrings for anyone, much less a politician, and if it doesn`t -- if it`s not able, something like this isn`t able to move the ball forward, I don`t know what will. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s one thing to have a bake sale for band uniforms or something, but the idea that these kids are so worried about losing their school that they`re raising $20 to try to keep the school open, that just does not seem like it should be happening in our country. CLECKLY: Well, I will tell you that our community -- again, we have serious social economic problems. We had a spat of violence over the summer. Most recent, seven children shot. Two children, children, murdered. And now, the children are going back to school and going to a school -- when they go to school, this is something that`s normal for them. This may be the -- the only normal thing for them. Now, they`re going back to school. Now they have to worry about, you know, not being able to go to school. Education is -- HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, we know if they`re home, they`re much more likely to be in circumstances of danger, especially if there is violence in the communities. I really do hope, not only on the heart strings but on the political strings. I read at least one commentary said, oh, don`t worry, sports will save us, if the football team doesn`t suit up on Friday night. But this is just, it`s too much. I really appreciate Mr. Dawayne Cleckly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for joining us. I appreciate your time. CLECKLY: Thank you, Melissa. HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, our foot soldier of the week. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: One of the central tenets of the American criminal justice system is that you should be judged by a jury of your peers, but one group of Americans who gets that privilege is our young people. Our foot soldiers this week are working on changing that. The Brownsville Youth Court in Brooklyn, New York, is a program within the center for court inn innovation which hears low level cases for low-level offenders between age 10 and 15. And instead of a courtroom by adults the judges and the attorneys and the jury are all young people. The young offenders pled their case to a group of volunteers who are in their own age cohort, and their own community, and the youth court members make up an eight-person jury which asks the questions and doles out sanctions. Now, these sanctions are ranging from workshops of decision making, peer leadership and drug education, to things like reflection essays and apology letters and community service. Upon completion of the sanctions, the young offenders could have their charges dropped and the probations dismissed or the records expunged and the program makes so it that one mistake does not derail a person`s life, and they can apply in college and jobs without a criminal record shadowing them at every turn. Sharese Crouther who runs it and volunteers of the Brownsville Youth Court are our foot soldiers of the week. Sharese joins me now along with Mikala Greenidge, who is a Brownfield youth court member. I am so happy to have you both here. Mikala, let me start with you, why are -- what are you learning as part of the program? MIKALA GREENIDGE, YOUTH COURT MEMBER: Well, I would say the Brownfield youth court teaches you not only how the young people can make a difference in how to help others but it teaches you good life lessons like public speak, and I am pretty sure that if it weren`t for Sharese, I would not be talking to you. But it teaches you what is going on in the real world and the fact that I`m in Brownsville Youth Court, I am making a difference and I`m proud of that. HARRIS-PERRY: And so I am extremely proud of you and the model, and talk to me about what kinds of cases that these young people hear and the sanctions that they dole out. SHARESE CROUTHER, COORDINATOR, BROWNSVILLE YOUTH COURT: Yes. So the youth court here is low-level offenses, things that range from whether a young person jumps a turn style or doubles up on the fare to school altercations, to petty larceny and things of that nature. HARRIS-PERRY: When you are working to make a decision and working tot, do you find that the young people who are offenders before you are irritated that young people can sanction them or do they have more respect for it, because it is other young people? GREENIDGE: Well, I`m not going to lie, sometimes they don`t take it seriously because we are so young, and we are around their age group. But most of the time, I think that it is better for them, because they feel more comfortable talking to us rather than adults. So, that just -- it makes, I don`t know how to put it exactly, but I think it is better overall, because we get respected and we have a lot of thanks from the parents and guardians of the respondents that we get. HARRIS-PERRY: Are the kids tougher in the sanctions than the adult decision-makers or more fair? CROUTHER: Sometimes they can be a little tough. Especially if they feel like a young person who comes in and may not take it so seriously, only because they want to offer them different opportunities to kind of understand the severity of their the actions. However, they are very fair. They take everything into consideration to the process that the young person went through at the present of what punishment they received at home, how their friends may have affected their families, before deciding their final decision. HARRIS-PERRY: And what about law e enforcement. You say they are young offenders, but does the law enforcement take it seriously? CROUTHER: Yes, one of the partners is the 73rd precinct in Brownsville where we receive the juvenile reports and referrals from the young people there, and they tend to be excited about having those cases heard in youth court before it even trickles down further into the juvenile justice system. HARRIS-PERRY: Mikala, before we became on air, you we talked a what about you want to be when you grow up, and you`re like, I`m not sure yet. But this does necessarily made you want to be a lawyer. What do you want these days about you think you might want to be? GREENIDGE: You know, that is a really good question, because I`m still decided. Right now, I`m in college and I go to Eugene Lange, the new school, and right now I am taking classes all over the place, trying to feel out what I want to do, and so that is still in question. HARRIS-PERRY: I am a fan of that and a liberal arts education and you are meant to go to try out all of the things, and when I hear you talking about taking everything in account and deliberating, these are the skills they will need no matter what they are doing. CROUTHER: Yes, the young people who are participating youth court, it is six months, and it`s my goal of mine to expose them to different opportunities, and develop skill sets that - skill sets that will transfer to other areas. Mikala is a great example of that. She stuck with the program and has developed tremendously. And I know she`s going to be great at whatever she decides to do. HARRIS-PERRY: Whatever it is. Or maybe more than one thing and you will decide to do lots of things. I love this program. I love what it`s doing around the questions of justice, as well as developing skills for young people. Thank you for giving your time and energy to it. And it is OK if you don`t know all of the answers right now. I want to say thank you to Sharese Crouther and to Mikala Greenidge. That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. Now, don`t forget, I`ll see you right back here tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. But right now, it`s time for preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT". Hi, Alex. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END