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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/03/11

Guests: Jared Bernstein, Melissa Harris-Perry, Rep. Peter DeFazio

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: You know, I am -- I have learned I can tie my limbs into knots that I didn`t know I could tie them into. Did you fly back on the red eye, too? O`DONNELL: Of course, no. I had the pleasure of getting a 6:00 a.m. -- oh, boy, I don`t know how I`d kept my eyes open. MADDOW: It`s better to have a single 48-hour work day than it is to fly at 6:00 a.m. I believe it. O`DONNELL: Right. MADDOW: Anyway, thank you, Lawrence. I appreciate it. O`DONNELL: Good luck, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour -- which ought to be fun and punchy because of the lack of sleep. We do begin tonight with some terrific news, some terrific news for some very specific people. Even in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad economy, there are some people in this great country of ours who are really doing wonderfully, splendidly, terrifically, splendifically. We`re going to need some new adverbs for this because American corporations are setting new profit records right now. Seriously, it`s raining money for the Microsofts and Apples and Goodyears and Caterpillars and 3Ms of the world. They all set a record for revenue in the last three months. The second quarter reports are coming in. And so far, it`s rivers and lakes and oceans of money for the S&P 500. After months of report profits already, they are doing better than before, even better than expected. And in the case of oil companies, they are doing a lot better. That`s what happens when you can sell your product to a captive audience for suddenly high prices. You get even richer than you were before and you started off really rich. Well, the news is really, really good for the gold-plated crowd of people who own corporations. The news for everybody else, of course, is not so good. We learned today that U.S. companies are planning layoffs at a pace not seen since spring of last year. Planned layoffs are up nearly 2/3 from the month before and the level a year ago. And while we have been watching government austerity shrink the public job sector, the teachers and police officers of American who`ve been put out of work, now, we`re seeing big layoffs at drug companies and retailers. And even when government had been cutting jobs, these had been the sectors providing some of the very few new jobs this lousy economy had been adding. And now, they are cutting, too. So, so much for the silver lining, I guess. So much for the theory that what is good for the so-called job creators is necessarily good for the job doers. There`s a clear and painful disconnect right now between what`s happening for the wealth of corporations and what`s happening for the rest of the economy. Corporations making lots of profit does not equal jobs it turns out. It just equals lots of corporate profit, the already rich get much richer and the not rich get bupkus (ph). At the end of this week, we will get a new report on jobs numbers. This one will tell us the overall unemployment rate for the country and also how many jobs got added or lost in July. The last report in June was so bad it frankly caused cramping. For what it`s worth, the new one on Friday is expected to show that we gained more jobs than we did in June but don`t get your hopes up that it`s going to be good news. Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty, this kind of reporting is where small numbers come with big consequences. Like this small number, for instance, from the Commerce Department this week telling us that personal spending in this country dropped in June for the first time since September 2009. That doesn`t look like much, right? How about now? This is Wall Street reacting to the news of that tiny little number. This is Wall Street reacting to that news about ordinary Americans cutting back on their spending -- investors and companies and economists all now legitimately freaking out and running for cover because of news like that. This slow motion, seemingly endless economic crisis we have been slogging through for a few years now is not a Beltway spat. It is not an election, it is not a fight. It is a really big American problem, and I`m sorry to say that it is starting to get worse again -- so break out the campaign bus. That is the response from the Obama administration today, sending the president on a listening tour in a campaign bus so we can hear about the pain in the heartland and try to reconnect with American voters on this issue. They`ll be doing that for three days. That is the Democratic response today. On the Republican side, their plan is, of course, to criticize the president`s bus tour. That will make a difference. And also, Speaker John Boehner broke from his August recess to tweet a link to the GOP blueprint for jobs. Here, let me click on that for you. Oh, hey, look, it`s the same report from a few months ago -- the one with the enough gigantoloid type and clip art so it takes up 10 pages and looks semi-credible even if one page, this one, is entirely clip art and another page is, of course, just the cover. The Republican big 10-page large font plan for creating jobs comes down to making things even better than they already are for corporations, for the only folks in this economy who are already doing great, doing better than ever, having record-setting profits. But the GOP plan is that they must have more. The GOP proposing to lower corporate tax rates so corporations get more profit. They want to get rid of regulations that might interfere with making more profit. And, of course, then, just like that, by increasing corporate profit even more, even more than they are at with their record levels right now, somehow this time, that will make jobs? The Republican plan to turn this economy of our nightmares into the economy of our dreams is just to keep everything great for corporations and the waters of prosperity will just find everybody else somehow. While corporate profits are growing in double digits, even while they are planning record layoffs, the Republican mindset is to cut spending on everything else, no matter the cost to economy or jobs but to give corporations more and more and more -- and that Republican mindset is what`s winning now in Washington. That is the way our policy course has been set. Republicans in Congress just held the debt ceiling ransom for a deal that stands to grievously wound the economy if the predictions are correct. It`s more than $2 trillion in cuts. The deal is expected to whack another 323,000 jobs right out of the economy. It`s enough to slow economic growth by 0.3 percent. If you factor in the stimulus plans the Democrats had said they wanted in this deal but they gave up on in the negotiating, this deal ends up costing 1.8 million jobs and 1.5 percent of GDP and economic growth -- all the while, oil companies get to keep their subsidies. That`s on top of their record profits, and anybody lucky enough to fly in a corporate jet keeps getting taxpayer subsidies for that, too. The deal on the debt ceiling keeps subsidies for oil companies and private jets, but it ends, say, federal help for grad students` college loans -- because, you know, those grad students, I hate how they caused the recession. Or, you know, as if there`s enough skin we can take out of grad students` hides to get us out of this recession. This very hard time we are living through is sometimes called the Great Recession. The Great Recession is a name meant to distinguish it from but also relate it to an even harder time in our history, the Great Depression of the 1930s. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt got elected to save the country from a nightmare of soup kitchens and bread lines and American kids without clothes to wear and families driven from their homes into makeshift camps made of whatever they could find. President Roosevelt responded with a plan designed to put Americans back to work, building America. Quite literally, FDR`s stimulus program built America -- they built roads, they built bridges, they built stuff and cities, they built stuff and parks. The next time you are in a state park, look for a plaque somewhere in that state park that tells you when that lovely welcome center got built. There`s a good chance it happened during the depression with workers paid by the U.S. government trying to save the economy. But in 1937, eight years into the Great Depression, FDR turned his attention to cutting the nation`s deficit at the time. President Roosevelt had been convinced by Republicans and by his own treasury secretary that the nation could no longer afford his recovery efforts, that instead of continuing to attack unemployment, they decided they needed to attack the deficit. And, boy, did they attack the deficit. Great success there. And great post for "The New York Times" economics blog this week. Bruce Bartlett points out that they cut the deficit by 17 percent in two years. So, yes, they attacked the deficit. But in so doing, they also attacked the economy. Growth had been strong in 1934, 1935, 1936 while the government was spending. In 1937, that growth collapsed. And the next year, the economy began to shrink again. The Great Depression had its own recession. Misery wrapped in misery. They did slay the deficit in 1937, they also slayed the economy. It`s worth remembering that FDR`s predecessor, Herbert Hoover, drove the U.S. economy from a downturn into the Great Depression in the first place by freaking out over government spending in 1930. He was the early 20th century version of oh, my God, we`ve got to stop spending, we`ve got to stop spending now. It`s why they named those American shanty towns Hoovervilles. Thanks, Herbert. Look what you`ve done. We have an economic stimulus in this Great Recession, this hard time that`s got our name on it. We had a stimulus, one of them, in 2009, and that`s over now. The money President Obama managed to get through Congress is credited with creating or saving more than 3 million jobs, real jobs, real people spending real wages that make the economy grow. But that stimulus is over now and there`s no talk of another one in Washington today. Now, Republicans are telling us we have to make like Herbert Hoover again or like FDR when he made his big mistake in 1937. They said what we need to do now is crank down on the economy, show some disciplines -- as if the deficit is the nation`s pressing problem right now, not 14 million people out of work, as if what this out of control bonfire of jobs needs is a bucket full of kerosene. How big an economic mistake are we making right now? And do we have any hope of going any other way, of doing anything else? Joining us now is Jared Bernstein, former member of President Obama`s economic team and former economic advisor to Vice President Biden. He`s now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and an MSNBC contributor. Jared Bernstein, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here. JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: My pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: You are the economist here, not me. So, tell me if it is not apt to think about `37, to think about the risks of cranking down spending, the risks of getting thrown back into a second recession. BERNSTEIN: I can`t think of any more apt cautionary tale than the one you just told and very thoroughly, by the way. Look, the deficit reduction deal that was just passed, it doesn`t do the kind of harm that the 1937 problem did, at least in 2012. You mention the Bruce Bartlett statistic that 17 percent contraction. That is definitely 1937-style self-inflicted wound. Now, we`ve been quite masterful at our own self-inflicted wounds. But at least in 2012, it`s more like a scratch. It`s about $20 billion out of the economy. But the important point, Rachel is that it goes exactly the wrong way. Not only did we just spend a number of months focusing on precisely the wrong problem -- the budget deficit as opposed to the immediate jobs deficit -- but in 2013l, those cuts really kick up. Now, if you think this economy is going to be out of the woods by then, it won`t be. I mean, the unemployment rate will still be way too high. By 2013, we could be looking at cuts more in the neighborhood of $100 billion. So, it`s a very important caveat that you`re raising. MADDOW: Do you think that -- I mean, you not only understand this from an economic perspective, you have been there in the fights over this in Washington and during this administration. Do you think that it is possible to do things in the right direction right now, to do anything that could stimulate the economy, that could have a meaningful effect on unemployment? Is anything politically possible right now? BERNSTEIN: I think a few things are politically possible. I have yet to give up hope. For one, you mention -- you had a little slide in there about job losses that might occur if we fail to renew the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance extension. Now, with such high and long-term unemployment in the system, it`s important to realize that both of those programs, the president has spoken to this, are in the economy right now. They are in the 2011 economy. If we take them out and they do expire at the end of the year, that will be a big economic air pocket and will cost us a lot of jobs. We need the government to continue to pick up some of the slack from a private sector that is as down on the mat practically as it was during the recession itself. I mean, you cited the consumer spending numbers the other day. I mean, those are an economy in stall. So, first thing, do no harm. Now, I`d like us to go further than that and try to do something on the infrastructure front. I think that`s a good way to get folks back to work and if you do it right, you can make that happen relatively quickly. That`s definitely a bigger political lift, though. MADDOW: The consumer spending numbers that you just mentioned -- again, you`re the economist here, and I`m not. And what I saw there was s consumer spending is down, that doesn`t seem like a good thing. But I didn`t know how to interpret the ashen-faced slack-jawed freak out on Wall Street and among economists about this. Can you explain why that was so upsetting to people? BERNSTEIN: I can explain that, I think. I think that Wall Street woke up after this self-induced nightmare of the debt ceiling, looked around and recognized this economy isn`t going anywhere. I mean, basically, folks had been kind of this quiescent sleep telling themselves the worst that can happen to the economy is, we fail to raise the debt ceiling and we default. Now, there`s a lot to that. I actually think it`s very good for the economy not to have the default staring us in the face, just like, you know, it wouldn`t be good for me to hit myself in the head with a heavy object. So, my point is that Wall Street, I think, looked around, saw two things. GDP was kind of creeping along the bottom. Certainly, consumer spending was just about a zero, at least in June, and there`s not -- and the game in town right now is really fiscal policy. Monetary policy, the kind of thing the Fed does to help lower interest rates, it`s probably not going to be all that helpful now, borrowing costs are already low, firms are sitting on a lot of cash that they could invest if they wanted to. So, I think one of the things the street is responding to is this realization that the government, in terms of fiscal policy, in terms of helping the economy with jobs, with the kind of programs you and I were just talking about, is out of the picture. And that`s exactly the wrong economics for this moment, just as it was in `37. MADDOW: And the politics -- I mean, if you`re driven by the economic need here, those politics have to be changed. (CROSSTALK) BERNSTEIN: The economy is telling us a very clear message, Rachel, which is it needs some kind of fiscal help. The politics are completely upside-down, telling us the opposite. MADDOW: Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, MSNBC contributor -- hitting the nail on the head with the last comment there, Jared, thank you so much. BERNSTEIN: Thank you. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. Still ahead, the shutdown of a major government agency for fun and profit. What the heck is still going on with this thing with the FAA? We`ve got details ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Sunday, February 6th of this year was one of the most consequential days in the modern history of the great state of Wisconsin. On Sunday, February 6th, the beloved, the adored, the one, the only, the Green Bay Packers became Super Bowl champions. The Packers defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 31-25, the entire state of Wisconsin transformed in an instant into an utter state of pro-Packer pandemonium. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Packers, Packers, Packers. Then the very next day on February 7th, Wisconsin`s new Republican Governor Scott Walker who had been at the Super Bowl the night before returned to his home state all fired up about the game, he convened his staff at the governor`s mansion to give them a pep talk, to inspire them about their work ahead. And what was the obvious example before him of greatness that he had used to inspire his staff? The Packer`s big dramatic Super Bowl victory the night before? No, he actually chose to fire them up with a story of Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air traffic controllers. And I said this may not have as broad implications, but in Wisconsin`s history -- little did I know how big it would be nationally -- in Wisconsin`s history. I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history, and this is why it`s so important that they were all there. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: This is the day after the Packers won the freaking Super Bowl, and that was the pep talk Scott Walker says he gave to his cabinet. Packers, smackers. Let`s go break some unions, you guys. Sure enough, just a few days later, Scott Walker launches his unprecedented assault on union rights in Wisconsin. That Ronald Reagan moment of inspiration for Scott Walker actually took place 30 years ago today. August 3rd, 1981, members of the nation`s air traffic controllers union went on strike, demanding better wages and better working conditions. Instead of sitting down and negotiating with them, Ronald Reagan walked to the Rose Garden of the White House and threatened them on national TV. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I must tell those who fail to report to duty this morning, they are in violation of the law and if they do not report to work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Forty-eight hours later, Mr. Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers across the country. Now, 30 years later to the day, President Obama, today, is dealing with his own airline union crisis, a crisis marked, again, by Republicans trying to break the backs of American unions. The Federal Aviation Administration right now is shut down -- congressional Republicans refusing to reauthorize the FAA unless Democrats concede to their demand to strip union rights for people who work for airlines or railroads. Crush the airline unions or the FAA gets it. The FAA has been reauthorized 27 separate times over the last four years in the short little temporary reauthorizations. Even when they can`t agree on the big thing, at least they can agree to keep it going. But this year, because Democrats have not given in to this Republicans union-busting demand, this year at the Republican`s hands, the FAA got it. The FAA shutdown is having real live consequences for the U.S. economy, in an economy already reeling from horrible unemployment, this shutdown means that 4,000 FAA employees have been put out of work immediately, another 70,000 construction workers who had been working on FAA projects are out of work as well. Every week the shut down continues, the government loses $200 million in lost revenue from airline ticket fees -- a total that will reach $1 billion if Congress does not come back before the end of their recess to try to fix this thing. Today, President Obama implored the Republicans to stop playing political games with the FAA, as did his transportation secretary, Ray LaHood. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: I`m focusing my attention like a laser beam on Congress. We need both houses. End your vacation for a couple of days, get off the beach, get out of your mobile homes or whatever you`re traveling in, come back, pass a bill. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This at its core is a fight about union rights. That is what`s holding this whole thing up. Republicans insisting that Democrats must cave on union rights or they will not release the FAA from this death grip. Democrats, for their part, appear to be standing firm so far. The Democrats House Campaign Committee now reportedly targeting 50 House Republicans in their home district on this issue. The head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, now is accusing the, quote, "extreme House GOP of playing partisan politics with the FAA." And the White House has said that President Obama will veto any bill that does pass the House and Senate if it includes the union-stripping provision. When Scott Walker, who was so moved by Ronald Reagan firing all those people, when Scott Walker enacted his own radical union-stripping agenda in Wisconsin, he had not campaign on it, he just did it when he was governor, apparently thinking that people would rally to his cause. People did rally, of course, but not for him, not with him, but rather against him. Tens of thousands people in the streets of the state capitol. And the Wisconsin state Democrats who stood up to Scott Walker on this are the ones who have reaped the political war so far from what Scott Walker did. Remember the way they were greeted when they returned to Wisconsin after they fled to Illinois to stop Walker from moving ahead with this thing? (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: The "thank you" parade. The "thank you" parade -- a parade in the streets for standing up to Scott Walker`s union-stripping agenda. When`s the last time you saw a parade in the streets to thank Democrats from taking a stand on something? But that was the political reward that awaited Democrats willing to stand up for the rights of people who work for a living in the great state of Wisconsin. Nationwide, the percentage of people who took the Democrat`s side in that fight over union rights in Wisconsin was 77 percent. Questions remain in this latest fight: do we as a country get our FAA back? Do those hardworking people get to go back to work? Will Democrats keep refusing to cave on the union-stripping demands from the Republicans on this? But third and most broadly, will the Democrats take this as an opportunity to go on offense? Will Democrats, if they do not cave on this, actually choose to thump their chests on this a little bit, to speak up about what they are doing? Will national Democrats take a lesson from Wisconsin Democrats and tell everybody the reason they are standing up to Republicans on this is because this is a right for union rights and union rights are important and worth fighting for and Democrats can be counted on to do it? Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon. He`s a long-time member of the House Transportation Committee. Congressman DeFazio, thanks very much for your time tonight, sir. It`s nice to have you here. REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: President Obama said today his expectation is this FAA issue will be resolved by the end of the week. Do you see that as possible? DEFAZIO: It could be resolved very quickly, just agree to a clean extension of the bill as has been done historically, unanimous consent on both sides, move forward, and put the 80,000 to 90,000 private sector workers back to work and continue these critical safety and security projects. I mean, the Republicans are sacrificing not only private sector jobs, small business jobs, things that they supposedly worship -- but also the safety and security of the American traveling public on the altar of extremist anti-labor legislation. You know, it`s pretty funny. We checked out what would have happened, the rule they want to apply is that in an organizing election, if you don`t vote, it counts as a no, that`s what the Republicans want? If we use that same rule in the House of Representatives, if you had to have a majority of all eligible voters voting and voting for you, there would not be one single elected member of the House of Representatives even from the most partisan districts. I mean -- and they want to say this is somehow fair for working people when they, themselves wouldn`t be in Congress? We might be better off if we had that rule for Congress. MADDOW: I understand why federal officials, so far, have been stressing that safety and security are still assured in our air travel industry despite the fact the FAA`s shut down. I understand they don`t want to spook people and hurt the industry more than it might otherwise be hurt by this shutdown. But do you really think that there are safety and security implications of this shut down? DEFAZIO: Well, there certainly are 40 airport inspectors have lost their jobs and their federal travel privileges. They are being asked to use their credit cards to fly around the country and inspect violations or potential violations and problems at airports and pay for their own lodging and everything else. How long can they keep that up? You know, a month would be pretty tough on the kind of salary these men and women collect. And -- I mean, there are critical security projects, critical safety projects that probably won`t get done this year. I`ve got an instrument- lighting landing system in my district. It`s likely if we`re delayed for a month, it won`t be put in before winter, which means minimally inconvenience, maximally, some really bad things could happen to people out there. And it`s like that all across the country. This is not a casual thing the Republicans are doing there. MADDOW: Congressman DeFazio, one of the reasons that I`ve invited you to be a guest on the show so many times, and I`m always really happy to have you is that I feel that you are a very blunt-speaking, candid member of Congress. And in those terms, what do you think about the assertion that I made in this introduction, that there is political capital to be gained here for making this a fight about union rights? So far, when Democrats have been talking about this issue, nationally, both at the DNC and the DCCC level, they`ve been talking about inconvenience and the jobs lost here. They`ve not been saying we`re fighting to save these union rights. Do you think they ought to? DEFAZIO: Yes, absolutely. I think the American people would think it`s pretty unfair that if you have an election and people don`t vote, they all count as no votes. Basically this would preclude unions from representing airlines in the future if this if this sort of rule was adopted. So, I`m absolutely comfortable making that, and I especially like to make that point by saying, you know, if we applied the same rules to Congress, nobody would be elected -- it kind of gets people`s attention. MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate it. DEFAZIO: Thank you, Rachel. You`re doing a great job. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Melissa Harris-Perry, who I know you love, fresh off her triumphant guest hosting gig her last week, Melissa will join us here in just a moment. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now in terms of the disruption to the neighborhood, you`re trying to do this under living, breathing New York. Obviously, this lunch box that we`re in, which is going to be the 96th Street station is a huge cavern. It goes all the way up to street level here -- just above our heads here, the ceiling here is street level. And this is a huge underground room. This had to have been painful for the neighborhood. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Last year our answer on this show to "Shark Week" was something we called "Geek Week," which frankly had no chance at all of competing to the American juggernaut that is "Shark Week." But still we tried. It was very fun and I got to see the tunnel boring machine working on the new subway line on the east side of Manhattan. Since then, that massive construction project rumbling under the feet of the Upper East Side has not gotten any quieter. But now, one construction worker working on that project is doing his best to make it up to the people who that construction sound has been annoying, and the adorable way he`s doing it is "The Best New Thing in the World Today." It`s really cool. It`s coming right up at the end of the show. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Back when the great big union rights fight had just begun in Wisconsin, when Republican Governor Scott Walker was trying to get his bill through the legislature and a big chunk of Wisconsin was taking to the streets in protest of that idea, way back then, the national Republican Party was on team Scott Walker. The national Republicans were all over this union-busting thing. Back in February, going to the national Republican Party`s Web site would flip you over to something called help "Stop Obama and His Union Bosses." When you clicked on that, it would take you to a page titled "A Fight We Must Win," nationalizing the Scott Walker fight against unions, making out like he was big eagle, and trying to turn the whole thing into donations for the Republican Party. Now that Democrats have a shot at turning the Senate back into Democratic control by recalling Republican senators in elections next week, the Republican party`s national chairman, who is from Wisconsin, was asked about the national connection to the story. He was asked this morning by political reporters, hey, you made a big deal about those Wisconsin political fights -- the Wisconsin political fights over unions back when they were happening in the spring, what do you make of the Wisconsin political recalls now that they are happening this summer? National Republican Party chairman responded by saying, Wisconsin, what? Scott who? "Talking Points Memo" quoting Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus saying today, quote, "I don`t think it`s a test run." Quote, "The localized nature of it doesn`t allow it to be analogous to the 2012 election." This is a great insight in the political tactics 101. When you think some local issue was going your way, it means the whole world, right? But when you think some local issue is going your opponent`s way, then just some local issue, why are you guys focusing on that? As we steam towards the Wisconsin elections on Tuesday given polling numbers out last week, given internal polling numbers cited by the Democratic Party this week, the Democrats at least seem to be in good shape to maybe take back the Senate in that state. As Republicans at the national level run as far away as they can get from this, just in case, there is a real question here about how Democrats at the national level are dealing with it, whether Democrats are looking at what`s happening in Wisconsin as a lesson for their party, too. As I talked about earlier in the show with Congressman Peter DeFazio, there is a substantive question in terms of whether or not Democrats recognize political advantage that they can get for standing overtly and pounding their chest a little bit over the fact that they support union rights the way the Wisconsin Democrats did. But more broadly, there`s also the issue of whether or not Democrats value the Democratic base, whether or not Democrats are going to try to court Democratic voters. The recall of the Republican majority in the state Senate in Wisconsin is not a Republican phenomenon. This is a Democratic phenomenon. Republicans did stuff in office that outraged people in Wisconsin, the Democrats in office in Wisconsin stood up and fought against them tooth and nail, unanimously, and the Democratic electorate, as a consequence, let up like a Christmas tree in Wisconsin. They collected a record number of signatures to set of an unheard of recall election. They raised huge amounts of money and now, they may very well take back the Senate next week. The Wisconsin Democrats, the base awaits. So, what are D.C. Democrats trying to do to enthuse their base around the country? Pointing at the Republicans and going, ew, you don`t like them, do you? That doesn`t really count. Where are Democrats taking a stand? Where are they refusing to back down? Where are they saying they are going to fight tooth and nail and not give in? They were last spotted debating on the question of how we should let the Republicans destroy the economy. The crowning achievement of that fight? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: You have been quoted coming out of your caucus as calling this agreement a sugar-coated Satan sandwich. Was that, indeed, your quote? Is that how you feel about this deal? REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: It`s a very accurate quote. What I`m saying is that if you lift the bun, what you see is antithetical to everything the great religions of the world teach, which is: take care of the poor, take care of the aged. It looks like a Satan sandwich. REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: The narrative got defined for the president, he bought into it, and then you could see the trajectory of these whole negotiations. Yet, we were going to end up a deal that was not going to have any revenue generation in it, that we were going to end up with a deal based on spending cuts to discretionary programs, and that deal was going to be hard to swallow. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So you voted against this bill today. What was the deciding factor for you? REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: All of the cuts come from people who have already sacrificed so much, middle class people, our senior citizens, poor people, all the people that we should be protecting and not a hair from the head of a millionaire or billionaire. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There are a lot of disappointed progressives out there, a lot of liberals who are disappointed the way the president handled this. Do you think anyone is going to emerge and challenge him for the Democratic presidential nomination? SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I have no idea. But I do believe that, you know, the president should be held accountable. You know, when you say something in a campaign and you don`t do what you said you would do, I think that it`s fair to raise those issues. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Even elected Democrats, to say nothing of the base, say they are disgusted and disappointed by the deal the president just signed on the debt ceiling disaster, after being pushed into it by the Republicans. The question is: is the Democrats message to the base here, "Sorry, you guys, just swallow it and get over it," or are Democrats going to have to make it up to their base somehow? Joining us now is the inimitable Melissa Harris-Perry, professor of political science at Tulane, MSNBC contributor, and an amazing guest host last week while I was away. Thank you so much for doing such a great job. MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I know. But this is -- I`d much rather be sitting here right now. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Well, you`re welcome back any time you want, because it would mean a vacation for me. It would be wonderful. We`ve got -- we saw representatives there from the Progressive Caucus, from the Black Caucus, the independent socialist in the Senate, Bernie Sanders, Jan Schakowsky, a lot of the sort of the leading lights of the liberals congressional -- the liberals among Democrats in Congress, saying that debt deal was a Satan sandwich and worse. Is there a Democratic base problem for Democratic elected politicians and the president right now? HARRIS-PERRY: No. And I know it would be nice if it were, you know? And I know that we`d like to be able to say, OK, now, because of this, they`ll be held accountable. But, look, a couple of things have happened here. The president, in cutting this deal, allowed the few progressives that exist in the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives, to vote against the Satan sandwich. When they go to stand up for reelection, they will be able to say, Lord Voldemort, and I, you know, was one of the people standing against him. That`s exactly what a president is meant to do. He provided exactly the cover that was necessary for the -- now, I think, let me be clear, it`s a lousy deal. I hate the debt ceiling deal. There needed to be no debt ceiling deal. There needed to be a clean vote to raise the debt ceiling, then we need to have this budget discussion. But with it done, these folks all can stand against it, yell against it, rail against it, that gets them reelected in their districts. The moderates, blue dogs, all of them that come from state like mine in Louisiana, they can now sort of take cover underneath it and, look, we went along with what the Republicans did. I mean, the fact is, it`s a pretty complex coalition to keep together and as ugly as this sausage is, it may, in fact, be the sausage that gets them all reelected in 2012. MADDOW: Is there something that the Democrats need to be thinking about and the White House needs to be thinking about in terms of energizing the base? We saw in 2010 was not a lot of Democratic voters going out and doing identifiable thing. What we saw in 2010 was a comparably large number of Republican voters rushing to the polls and electing Republican candidates, and Democrats essentially sitting on their hands. How does the White House keep Democrats from sitting on their hands? HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. This is the big question. I mean, you know, when you`re running, you want two things. You want a really good enemy and you want somebody that you can get behind. That`s what 2008 was. And the thing that I love best about what Obama for America did as a campaign in 2008 was it assumed that American voters would respond to argument. It assumed that they were adults, that you could make a case to them. And that even if that, you know, so-called median voter didn`t agree with you today, but if you can make the right kind of case, you might be able to win that median voter. They have not governed that way, they campaigned that way in `08. They did not governed that way. And so, I think they`re going to have to decide whether or not they really think Americans are adults who can be -- who can hear an argument. I think that`s what Wisconsin shows. Look, Wisconsin got the government they elected. Those people didn`t get put in by some sort of coup. You know, they were elected to those positions, but when they saw what it was, as you point out, lit up the base. MADDOW: Yes. And lit up the base and lit up the base not just in a way that made them angry about what the Republicans were doing, which I think has succeeded the national level in terms of a Democratic agenda, but it made them start cheering for their Democrats and wanting more of them. And that`s I feel like the step that national Democrats having to take. HARRIS-PERRY: It`s tough and they are going to have to do that. And they`re going to have to do with more than rhetoric. I can remember during the campaign, Senator Clinton said you campaign in poetry but you govern in prose. And so, the question, can we regain a little bit of the poetry along with the difficulty of the prose. MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Perry, professor of political science at Tulane, MSNBC contributor, thank you for coming back so soon. You just did a great job. HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. MADDOW: Fans of "THE ED SHOW," time to get extra excited. Do you want to know who their guest is right after this show tonight? Want to know who it is? Bill Maher, it`s true. And here, dictators, say what you will about their politics. The great dictators of the world really know how to put on a show. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World Today" now with extra singing and hard hats and singing in hard hats. Yes, stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In North Korea, the annual Arirang Festival was going on right now, celebrating one of the few things North Koreans are allowed to celebrate, the birth of Kim Jong-Il`s dad. Arirang has synchronized marching, of course, and singing and dancing and gymnastics. Arirang is said by the North Koreans to be the largest gymnastics display in the world. You can believe that at your own risk. As with all dictatorial spectacles, children are an important part of this terrifying display of precisely synchronized human motion. So too are flip cards that spell out all sorts of pro-Kim Jong-Il statements. In the midst of all the Arirang forced smiling and card flipping and gymnastics, already on the verge of starvation, North Korea has been hit by recently by bad flooding -- floods that killed at least dozens of people and destroyed dozens of homes and acres of farmland. Even though South Korea was hit badly too, that`s what these pictures show. South Korea`s Red Cross offered the North millions of dollars worth of medical supplies to deal with the flooding crisis. So far, no response from the leader. Clearly, he`s been busy forging ahead with his festival. Floods, muds, starvation, smarvation (ph). Vying with North Korea today, though, for the most unbelievable dictator-related spectacle in the news was, of course, what happened in Egypt. Egyptians got to see Hosni Mubarak for the first time since he resigned, amidst of huge popular protests back in January. Today, Hosni Mubarak was in court charged with corruption and complicity of the deaths of more than 800 people killed in the months-long revolution. The 83-year-old who ruled Egypt with an iron-fist for decades arrived in Cairo on a hospital gurney, placed in a cage in a courtroom set up for his trial, alongside his sons. "The New York Times" reporting today the dictatorship in Syria picked today for an all out military assault on a rebellious city of its own called Hama because of the expectations that Syrians like the rest of the Arab world would be transfixed by those images of Mubarak in that bed, in that cage, in that courtroom -- facing trial before the people over whom he previously asserted absolute power. Activists in Syria say more than 100 people have been killed by the Syrian military just since Sunday, including 45 people killed today. But no news organization, including MSNBC, can confirm that, because no news organization has been allowed into Syria. According to the United Nations, the al-Assad regime in Syria has killed more than 1,500 people in five months of protests there. The U.N. Security Council, including China and Russia, condemned the violence today in Syria. China and Russia are not real big condemning regimes using violence against their own people, so that was a big deal. Even though autocratic dictators sometimes pretty good at throwing big showy parties -- even though they do that, they do still sometimes get called out to account for their brutality against their own people. What happens next in Syria and what the international community can do to help the Syrian people, of course, is still anyone`s guess. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World Today" is not a metaphor for why we need a jobs program, for why building big building projects to fix roads, and schools and bridges and tunnels and sewer lines are a good idea right now. I swear this is not a metaphor. This is just pure apolitical awesome in that context. Last year you might remember, we filmed a giant construction project that will one day be a new subway line in Manhattan, 2nd Avenue subway. Through the shaded area in the middle of Central Park -- see how there`s three different subway lines on the west side, but only one lonely green one on the right? Having another subway line in the east side will be really nice one day. But in the meantime, if you live or work along Second Avenue, the construction is a pain. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: To increase the peace in the neighborhood, one construction worker, a local 40 iron worker Gary Russo (ph) is giving up his lunch break every day to serenade the neighborhood. Over the last few weeks, people in the neighborhood have been stopping to listen and posting videos of him on YouTube. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: And that sign behind him says, "Forget all the noise, traffic and impact of the Second Avenue subway, enjoy the music." Local 40 iron worker Gary Russo and the sweet, sweet sound of infrastructure in the making, that is undoubtedly "The Best New Thing in the World Today." Thank you very much for being with us tonight. That does it for us tonight. One reminder again, the guest on "THE ED SHOW" tonight is Bill Maher, which means you should definitely stick around. Have a good one. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END